This project, which we call SELO DE MAR (sea stamp), aims to study and recover techniques of fish conservation and innovate from them.
The seasonality of raw materials, the wealth of some resources in short periods of the year, in contrast with others with greater limitations, quickly invited the Portuguese to develop conservation techniques, resulting in a great tradition for Portugal in this field, by using mainly the two most important resources, which are abundant: salt and sun.
At CAN THE CAN we promote species considered “minor”, preferably using those that are not valued by the consumer. We seek the full use of fish. It is important to disclose where the fish we eat comes from, to consume species according to the season; knowing how to use the fish, learning the different species and conservation methods is essential in order to obtain the best results.
We seek to use and promote unique species in Portugal, such as “Butter” Horse Mackerel (carapau manteiga). This horse mackerel is characteristic of the coast between Setúbal and Sines and is currently undergoing a qualification process, in order to guarantee the acknowledgement of the origin and the quality of the product. This qualification process seeks to clarify whether this is a sub species or, as it is pointed out, if it’s the existence of underwater rock formations along the coast, favoring the production of algae and plankton, which consequently makes this mackerel tastier.
We can use almost everything in a fish, as we traditionally do with pork. Of the head of larger fish we cure the throat and serve it with potatoes and peas stew. From the head meat tightly pressed we can still make terrine, making use of almost all the fish.
CAN THE CAN currently produces its own muxama, garum, pastrami, bottarga, fois gras, made of liver from diverse kinds of fish, tuna sangacho chorizo with black pork belly, Espadarte belly bacon, all using fish from the Portuguese coast.
* Tuna fish muxama is a gastronomy treat, which origins go back to the Arab occupation of the Iberian Peninsula, served mostly in the Algarve, consisting of filleted salt-cured tuna. The tuna is headed by cutting and twisting, followed by two longitudinal cuts on the dorsal and ventral parts in order to separate the total muscle mass, highlighting two pieces called the trunks, which have a triangular aspect and are used for muxama.
We try to promote Portuguese products that unfortunately not everyone knows, such as the Cuscos de Vinhais** (which have nothing to do with the Arab dish Cuscuz), a work pioneered by other Portuguese Chefs such as the brothers Óscar and António Gonçalves or chef António Loureiro.
** Cuscos de Vinhais have nothing to do with the Arab dish Couscous. Despite the similarities in appearance, the Arabian Couscous is a preparation of the cereal semolina, while the Cuscos de Vinhais is made of barbela wheat flour. The Cuscos from Trás-os-Montes are nevertheless a legacy left by North African populations, the European cousin of the Maghreb couscous.
This is a good example of a product 100% national, made with barbel wheat flour, which is then moistened with water and steamed over a fire. It was formerly the substitute for rice and used with various products that combine with the smokehouse of Vinhais. At CAN THE CAN we use this product with different species of national fish.
There are species such as the bush called Camarinheira (Corema album L.D. Don), which produces the “Camarinha”, small wild berries that grow in these dune bushes exclusively along the Atlantic coast of Iberian Paninsula. The Camarinhas have long stopped being collected and traded, existing almost only in the memories of the elderly ones, which makes it nowadays the focus of a study by Aida Moreira Silva and Maria João Barroca, researchers from the University of Coimbra who aim to rescue it. We intend to study the juice of these berries in order to exploit its qualities and apply it to further culinary uses.
No âmbito da procura de novos ingredientes alimentares, de plantas marítimas, interessa-nos a utilização de algas, utilizadas na alimentação humana já desde a antiguidade, pois embora sendo Portugal um país à beira-mar plantado, tem pouca tradição no consumo de algas.
In our search for new edible ingredients, such as sea plants, the algae, used in the human diet since the ancient times, raises our interest since Portugal has very little tradition in its consumption, in spite of being a country on the Atlantic coast.
But we particularly intend that the outcome of this project can contribute to the innovation of our national preserves, through the adaptation of diverse techniques and the inclusion of new produce, thus contributing to make this characteristic Portuguese product more and more peculiar and unique.
We want to make an adventure of flavors, colors, textures and stories of each proposal and are always striving for innovation in the way we work with Portuguese preserves and conservation processes.
More than dishes, stories are served and challenges are thrown; we want to play with time and confuse the senses.
The illustration used for Selo do Mar is a drawing by Manuel Lapa, graphic designer who has coined a great share of our contemporary visual history. We would like to thank his children who have kindly given us authorization to use it, making us very proud and honoured.