Olhão’s Fish Market is something to behold, here I am with my sixth Fish Tale but I’m no way near the bottom of my fish album and I know there are many fish I have yet to photograph. I seem to have all sorts of fish left in my album, it is almost a kind of Caldeirada.
Caldeirada is Portuguese Fish Stew, and it is scrumptious. There are of course many different recipes, some including shellfish others just a mixture of fish. Potatoes, tomatoes and fresh coriander seem to appear in most recipes but like the French bouillabaisse the exact ingredients will depend on personal preferences and what is available. One of the fishmongers in the market sells Caldeirada, well the raw fish, we bought a batch one day and it turned out to be one of the best stews I’d ever made.
So what else is lurking in my fish album.
A small fish which we thought we recognised but its name had us confused for a while as our fish book didn’t have the name being used in Olhão – Verdinhos. The Portuguese name we had was Badejo, and the English name of course is Whiting. The name – Whiting – is used for many different types of fish, for example the Canadians call the Alaska pollock Whiting, but it is the Merlangius merlangus we are talking of here. Once mostly used in pet food, they are now more valued. Unfortunately as with most of the world’s fish stocks it is becoming more vulnerable.
You will recall from my first Fish Tale that Olhão’s fish market sells a lot of shell fish and sea food. One of the delicacies sold is Cod’s Roe. Not sure I’ve ever seen as much on sale as I have in Olhão, and whilst I enjoy the little that you often find on individual fish I’m not sure I’d want to buy large quantities. The langoustines and oysters however are a very different story! The cockles you will find in many of the cataplanas and are delicious, although at the time I write this it is still advisable not to sample those from the Ria Formosa. The pollution problems have yet to be resolved.
The next photograph is of a fish which I think has a very boring English name – almost as though someone ran out of ideas on the day they were named.
The BlueFish, confusingly called Anchova in Portugal, can grow to over a metre in length. These ones were much smaller at 30 to 40cm. They are an aggressive fish, hunting and devouring smaller fish, and consequently can be dangerous when handled alive. Like the Whiting it is at risk of being overfished, but efforts to conserve its numbers do appear to be working.
My next fish also has blue in its name but its name seems a little more interesting – Bluemouth. Although it is not the first name that comes to mind when you see it! The name is because its mouth is leaden blue inside. Looking at my photograph I’m not sure that description really works for me! The Bluemouth is a rockfish and so unlike the Bluefish the Bluemouth sits and waits for it prey. We’ve not yet tried it so if you have do let us know what it tastes like.
I thought I’d finish with a fish that dominates the markets in the Algarve and also Madeira – the Scabbard Fish. I can only recall seeing the Black Scabbard in Madeira, and whilst in Olhão and other Algarvian markets we have seen both it is mostly the silver one that is sold. Alan Davidson in his ‘Tio Pepe’ Guide recommends they are pan fried which is how we had it in Madeira albeit with bananas then. In the Algarve we have found it in stews and also had it grilled. It is not a fish I would ask for when out in a restaurant and they can look fierce sometimes in the market, it is though worth trying.
I will be back with more fish, and regular visitors to Portugal will have spotted from all of my Fish Tales there is one fish I have not yet mentioned and yet it dominates all regions. That of course is the Bacalhau. The cod deserves its own post, and one I will be writing as soon as we are back in Portugal.