Pork and clams are a traditional combination from Portugal. This dish hails from the region of Alentejana and if you think that’s what makes this dish unique is just that it combines pork with clams, well then that’s not just it.
The real secret is the red bell pepper paste known as massa de pimentao. Traditionally, this is made by marinating bell pepper strips overnight with salt. Obviously, this is to draw the moisture out of the cells and soften the vegetable. The bell pepper is then blended into a pesto like paste with garlic cloves and olive oil. Yummy!
All that salt acts as a natural preservative and will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Mind you, I love using it all in the stew plus, any extra is the best on sandwiches. Thus far, I have yet to end up with a jar of this yumminess just sitting in the refrigerator. You can also buy the paste bottled up and purists insist on Incopil brand. However, I love the paste freshly made and with it being so hard to but it in the U.S. why not just make it at home?
If you are tempted to use middle eastern Ajvar as a substitute, I wouldn’t, simply because there is no ‘heat’ component in the traditional recipe.
This is such a simple stew once you make the red bell pepper paste, the pork chunks are marinated overnight with massa de pimentao and a generous glug of white wine and stewed the next day. Clams get added towards the end and a sprinkle of chopped up parsley and cilantro with lemon wedges and crust bread is all that’s required to complete this delicious meal.
Just one last thing, don’t use a lean cut of pork because like in all old world stews, you need the fat to render softer meat. Tenderloin may be tempting but you’ll be chewing on chunks of leather by the time you’re done!