Tonight's meal was a toss up between Calulu, a Sao Tomean stew made with grouper and prawns or Matata, clams cooked in Port Wine. Both are typical of Sao Tome and Principe's cooking (and I believe Matata is also cooked in Mozambique as well), but since we just wrote out the check for my son's college tuition, the clam dish won out, as grouper and prawns are significantly more expensive than clams. And, I already had Port in the house. I must confess that I may have poured myself a little glass before adding it to the pot -- you know, just to ea$e the money-drain pain.
Cuisine in Sao Tome and Principe is strongly influenced by its Portuguese as well as African traditions. Cornmeal, millet, rice, hot stews, curries, chicken, peanuts, coconut, cucumber, bananas and plantains are commonly eaten. Fishing on these islands yields plentiful seafood such as shellfish, lobster tails, shrimp and prawns. Coffee, Tea and Portuguese wines are also highly regarded as some of the finest in the African continent.
A quick note about clams a.k.a, bi-valve mollusks - If you can get fresh clams, these are ideal, however, a wonderful frozen substitute can be found in Sam's Clams, right out of Warren, Rhode Island. I get these in the frozen seafood section of my grocery store which is great, especially in winter months when fresh seafood is harder to come by. Sam's Clams are 100% natural (no salt or preservatives added), hand shucked sea clams which are chopped in good sized chunks. I use them for chowder, clam sauce and fish stews. Check out the link for a bunch of other tasty clam recipes....some I may just try later on in the week! And, please, please, please try to avoid using canned clams as they really do a disservice to your dish.
Port 'n Pepper ... perfect
Matata - Clams Cooked in Port Wine (recipe courtesy of www.africa.upenn.edu)
1 cup onions, finely chopped
2 ounces olive oil
4 cups chopped clams in their juice (use fresh or frozen)
1 cup Port wine (don't be afraid to be generous)
1 cup unsalted, roasted peanuts, finely chopped (or lightly salted)
2 tomatoes, cut into small pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (reduce salt if using lightly salted peanuts)
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1-1/2 lbs. fresh spinach, chopped
- Heat olive oil in a 4-quart sauce pan. Add onions and saute until soft.
- Add clams and port wine, bring to quick boil, then lower heat to a simmer.
- Add peanuts, tomatoes, salt and pepper and crushed red pepper and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
- Add spinach and cover just until leaves have wilted.
- Serve with hot white rice.
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