Episode 1: Catshark Cataplana with Sea Lettuce

Episode 1: Catshark Cataplana with Sea Lettuce

The Blackmouth Catshark
Blackmouth catshark is the “cod of the poor” from the Olhão area in the eastern Algarve. It’s a small shark similar to the small-spotted catshark that can be found in the Mediterranean and Eastern Atlantic, from the Faroe Islands to southern Senegal, including the archipelagos of Madeira and the Canary Islands.

In Portuguese it’s known as litão, in French chien espagnol, and in Spanish, pintarroja bocanegra. It’s a deep-sea species caught using a bottom trawl or hook apparatus between 200 and 500 or more metres.

Blackmouth catshark is generally scalded, salted and sun-dried then stored for several months before being eaten. Its abrasive dry skin was once used as sandpaper. Before being eaten, it must be soaked for about a day and can then be cooked as if it were salt cod, in a caldeirada (fish stew) or feijoada (with beans) or even in a cataplana.

The consumption of blackmouth catshark is ineradicably linked to the city of Olhão and its strong fishing tradition. The story goes that there was always an abundant supply of blackmouth catshark at the docks of the fishing port so it was never given great commercial value. But since it can be dried and eaten later, the poor of Olhão began to use it in times of scarcity, generally in the winter, and particularly on Christmas Eve to replace cod. That’s why demand for blackmouth catshark increases just before Christmas, rising to as much as 60€ a kilo and making it a dearer option than cod.

As our Toni Coelho says, “Christmas without blackmouth catshark just isn’t Christmas…”

Chef André Magalhães

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Ingredients (4 people)

  • 500 gr. blackmouth catshark
  • 200 gr sea lettuce (sea spaghetti, nori ou porphyra)
  • 1 onion and 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 large oxhearth tomato
  • 1 roasted red pepper
  • 3 medium potatoes
  • 2 dl olive oil
  • 2 dl white wine
  • 1 tablespoon safflower
  • 2 tablespoons salt flower
  • 1 chilli pepper (gindungo)


Soak the catsharkin a large bowl for eight hours, changing the water at least once.

Cut it into slices, three fingers wide.

Season lightly with a little of salt flower.

In a cataplana cooking pan, saute the thinly sliced onion with two tablespoons of olive oil. Add the crushed garlic cloves and the whole chili pepper. Soon aer that, add a third of the sea leuce.

Spread a third of the catshark over the sea leuce, and cover it with a layer of thin potato slices. Add the sliced tomato, another layer of sea leuce, another of catshark, and the roasted pepper.

Add one final layer of sliced potatoes, sea leuce and catshark.

Sprinkle with safflower, season with fleur de sel and pour in the white wine and the remaining olive oil.

Cover the cataplana and cook at medium heat for about fieen
minutes. Let it rest for five minutes and serve directly from thecataplana.

Recipe inspired on the teachings of TONI COELHO

Olive Oil: DOP Moura

Wine: Verdelho 2014

Download the recipe here.