Cataplana of Mussels and Prawns

11:20 pm on 10 March 2008

In Portugal, cataplana refers both to the metal pan that looks like a large clam shell with a hinged lid that is clamped shut for steaming and braising and to the dish that is cooked in it.  A heavy enamelled cast iron casserole works just as well.

(Serves 4)


  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 red and 1 green capsicum, cored, seeded, and sliced
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 100 grams prosciutto or Serrano ham, diced
  • 450 grams chorizo, removed from the casing, chopped roughly
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • pinch dried chilli flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1.5 kg small mussels, scrubbed, beard removed
  • 500 grams prawns, peeled, head and tail intact
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


Heat the olive oil in a heavy based casserole and set over a medium heat.

When the oil forms a haze, add the capsicum, tomatoes, onions, and garlic, cook and stir for 5-7 minutes until the vegetables are soft, but not coloured.

Add the ham and sausage and stir for 2 minutes until the fat starts to render a little.

Stir in the paprika, chilli, bay leaves, and wine.

Simmer and stir for 10 minutes until the liquid is reduced and thickened slightly.

Add the mussels and prawns to the sauce and toss to coat. Squeeze in the lemon juice and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Cover and simmer over a medium heat for around 10 minutes or until the mussels are open and the prawns are pink. It is best to resist the urge to lift the lid to often.

Discard any mussels that haven't opened.

Take the whole pan to the table and open it so that everyone can enjoy the aromas when the lid is removed. Ladle into wide, shallow bowls and serve immediately with crusty bread or rice.

Clams and/or pieces of firm white fish could also be used as an alternative. Add the fish, if using, towards the end of the cooking.

John Hawkesby’s Wine Suggestion

Sauvignon Blanc

  • Matahiwi Estate 2007
  • Clayridge 2007
  • Mud House Swan 2007


  • Pegasus Bay 2006
  • Muddy Water Dry Riesling 2007
  • Lake Chalice Riesling 2007

Pinot Gris

  • Ti Point 2007

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