Caldeirada is a very typical Portuguese dish. It is similar to the French dish, Bouillabaisse. It's a type of fish stew cooked with onions, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes, paprika, and of course fish. I remember the first time I ate this meal...it was at my Mother-in-law's house, back when my husband and I were dating. This is one of my husband's favourite meals. I know how much he loves it, so I made it for dinner last night. I would like to share the recipe with you:
Caldeirada - serves 4
1 large onion
2 large tomatoes
1 green bell pepper OR 1/2 green, 1/2 red bell pepper
4 garlic cloves
12-15 small boiling potatoes (of similar size)
3 tsp coarse salt
3 tsp paprika
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1 cup dry white wine
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2-3 pounds assorted fresh fish
fresh seafood (if desired)
First, peel and cut onion into thin slices. Chop 2 large tomatoes into coarse chunks. Cut green pepper in half, lengthwise, remove seeds, and slice into thin strips.(You can also use 1/2 green pepper & 1/2 red pepper). Peel and thinly slice garlic cloves. Set aside. Peel 12-15 small potatoes, cut in half, and keep submerged in water until ready to use.
The trick to Caldeirada seems to be the importance of layering. Here's how I do it...
Layer 1 - In a large pot, add half of each (onions, tomatoes, garlic, peppers). Add 1 tsp coarse salt, 1 tsp paprika powder, and bay leaf.
Layer 2 - Add all of the halved potatoes over the first layer. Sprinkle with 1 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of paprika powder.
Layer 3 - Over the potatoes, add remaining half of each (onions, tomatoes, garlic, peppers). Add 1 tsp of coarse salt, 1 tsp of paprika and 1/2 cup of coarsely chopped cilantro leaves.
Next, add 1 cup dry white wine to the layers and fill the rest of the pot with water, just until the potatoes are covered. (I used 6 cups of water for my large pot). Add 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil. Bring the water to a boil, over high heat.
Let the stew boil for 5 minutes before you add the fish. This is what it should look like. Set the heat to medium high. Now it's time to add the fish...
You can use 2-3 pounds of fresh fish. I used sea bass, grouper, red snapper, skate fish, and 2 sardines (typical of Portuguese Caldeirada). This fish was bought fresh and cut at the market. You must use fresh, frozen just won't give you the same flavour. I also added some mussels, clams, and a couple of blue crabs. (You don't have to add the seafood if you don't want to). You can also add shrimp or scallops, if you like. Seafood adds great flavour to the stew.
Place mussels, clams, and crabs on top of your stew, and then the sliced, assorted fish over top. Cover the pot with its lid and cook over medium high heat for approximately 20 minutes, or just until potatoes are cooked. The steam from the sealed pot will cook the fish, without having to immerse it in water. Be sure to check the potatoes, you wouldn't want them to overcook and break. It will make a mess in the stew. And of course, don't forget to taste for salt.
And here is the stew, served on a typical Portuguese plate. Use a ladle to pour some of the delicious sauce over the fish and make sure you have some fresh, crusty bread for dipping! Add some chopped cilantro over top and you have a delicious meal!