Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Seafood riches: Cádiz markets, restaurants blessed with diversity of marine delicacies

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CÁDIZ, Spain -- Along the southern edge of Spain, one of the oldest cities in Europe sits at the end of a narrow peninsula, jutting out into the sea.

Cádiz, founded around 1100 B.C. by seafaring Phoenicians from the Mediterranean's eastern shore, has served as a gateway to Africa, the Atlantic and the New World for centuries. It was an important port for the Romans, who succeeded the Phoenicians, the Moors who followed the Romans and the modern Spaniards who housed immense quantities of South American silver within an old city whose walls still stand.

Today, Cádiz is a relatively quiet city of 123,000, where the narrow streets and sandy beaches appear to attract as many Spanish tourists as foreigners. The sea, however, remains its defining aspect.

At Playa de la Caleta, a rock-rimmed beach made famous in 2002 by Halle Berry's bikini-clad homage to original Bond girl Ursula Andress, neoprene-clad divers come ashore in small fishing skiffs, carrying mesh bags of still-writhing octopuses past sunbathers.

Fish and seafood is a big part of the cuisine of Andalucia, the semi-autonomous region that covers southern Spain and still displays strong architectural and culinary ties to several medieval centuries of North African Muslim rule.

But even among Andalucian cities, Cádiz is blessed with an unusual embarrassment of seafood riches. The diversity of species on ice at the stalls in the centre of Cádiz's Mercado Central is enough to make a marine biologist weep.

There are large chunks of bright-pink albacore and deep-red bluefin tuna, the latter an unfortunately tasty but endangered apex predator. There are even-deeper-red scarlet prawns, which the Spanish call carabineros, whose heads yield a marine essence so rich they're used to flavour croquetas.

Stalls bearing tuna at Mercado Central in Cádiz, Spain.

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Stalls bearing tuna at Mercado Central in Cádiz, Spain. (BARTLEY KIVES / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS) Photo Store

There are spider crabs the size of melons, rows of impeccably fresh mackerel and entire, intact dogfish, the small sharks killed in unconscionable numbers not for their fins, but for a firm, white flesh that tastes remarkably sweet due to the creature's preferred diet of shellfish.

Some restaurants in Cádiz also serve something you won't find anywhere else: the unusual (but nowhere near endangered) ortiguillas, or snakelocks anemones, which are dusted in flour, deep-fried and taste a lot like mild, if oversized oysters. Freiduria, or fried-fish restaurants that stay open late, also serve tortillitas, which are green-onion-flecked little pancakes of tiny shrimp, paper cones full of fried whitebait and chunks of dogfish, which are similarly fried after a lengthy soak in a tangy and slightly spicy adobo marinade.

Full disclosure: I helped consume platefuls of cazon en adobo in two different Andalucian cities before I realized what I was eating, breaking a self-imposed rule against chowing down on any fish or seafood species that can't be harvested sustainably. I deserve whatever punishment awaits me in a shark-infested afterlife.

But this dish continues to haunt me. Happily, the Andalucian talent for frying up itty-bitty shark bits can be approximated by cooking firm-fleshed fish that don't require protection from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

The closest thing to dogfish in texture may be haddock or hake, but good luck finding fresh fillets in Winnipeg supermarkets. High-quality frozen fish can be just as firm -- and independent Winnipeg fish markets do have seasonal access to Pacific halibut, swordfish from the U.S. East Coast and on occasion, sustainably caught monkfish, all of which are tastier.

In reality, any firm-fleshed fish will do, though given the astronomical price of halibut, you may want to stick to something you don't mind breading and frying.

So if you're willing to forgo the environmental destruction, here's a guilt-free version of the Andalucian fried-marinated-fish recipe. The end result will look like fish McNuggets, so don't be put off by the pedestrian appearance.

You can serve these bits alone as an appetizer or make a plate into a meal, along with a bowl of the thick Andalucian tomato-and-bread soup known as salmorejo, as well as a dish of salpicon, a marinated salad.


Spider crab at Mercado Central. Fish and seafood make up an essential component of the cuisine of Andalucia.

Enlarge Image

Spider crab at Mercado Central. Fish and seafood make up an essential component of the cuisine of Andalucia. (BARTLEY KIVES / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS) Photo Store

Pescado en adobo (fried marinated fish bites)

500 g (1 lb) firm-fleshed white ocean fish, such as haddock, swordfish or monkfish, cut into two-centimetre cubes

50 ml (1/4 cup) wine vinegar

50 ml (1/4 cup) of olive oil

Two cloves of garlic, peeled and finely minced

15 ml (1 tbsp) of smoked hot paprika (or more, to taste)

10 ml (2 tsp) of ground cumin

10 ml (2 tsp) of dried, crushed oregano

Flour for dredging

Sea salt, to taste

Frying oil of your choice

Combine olive oil, vinegar, garlic and spices together. If you can't find smoked hot paprika, replace with sweet paprika and some hot chili powder or flakes.

Coat the fish in marinade, seal in a container and refrigerate overnight.

On a shallow plate, dredge fish pieces in flour, ensuring they're coated with a light dusting.

Heat oil in a shallow pan to medium-high. In Spain, this would be olive oil. Feel free to choose another oil if you have health concerns about heating olive oil.

Fry fish pieces in small batches until they brown, which should take no more than a few minutes, turning when necessary. Remove with a slotted spoon to paper towel or a drying rack. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve with a lemon wedge.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 30, 2014 C5


Updated on Wednesday, July 30, 2014 at 8:09 AM CDT: Adds photos, formats text

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About Bartley Kives

Bartley Kives wants you to know his last name rhymes with Beavis, as in Beavis and Butthead. He aspires to match the wit, grace and intelligence of the 1990s cartoon series.

Bartley joined the Free Press in 1998 as a music critic. He spent the ensuing 7.5 years interviewing the likes of Neil Young and David Bowie and trying to stay out of trouble at the Winnipeg Folk Festival before deciding it was far more exciting to sit through zoning-variance appeals at city hall.

In 2006, Bartley followed Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz from the music business into civic politics. He spent seven years covering city hall from a windowless basement office.

He is now reporter-at-large for the Free Press and also writes an outdoor-recreation column called Offroad for the Outdoors page.

A canoeist, backpacker and food geek, Bartley is fond of conventional and wilderness travel. He is the author of A Daytripper’s Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada’s Undiscovered Province, the only comprehensive travel guidebook for Manitoba – and a Canadian bestseller, to boot. He is also co-author of Stuck In The Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg, a collaboration with photographer Bryan Scott and the winner of the 2014 Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award.

Bartley’s work has also appeared on CBC Radio and Citytv as well as in publications such as The Guardian, explore magazine and National Geographic Traveler. He sits on the board of PEN Canada, which promotes freedom of expression.

Born in Winnipeg, he has an arts degree from the University of Winnipeg and a master’s degree in journalism from Ottawa’s Carleton University. He is the proud owner of a blender.

On Twitter: @bkives


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