Thursday, October 6, 2011


Roman ruins of Baelo Claudia.
While my friend Donna from New York was visiting last week, we made an excursion to see the Roman ruins of Baelo Claudia. Situated right on the wind-swept beach of Bolonia, near Tarifa in the Straits of Gibraltar—the southernmost tip of Europe—the ruins are of a fairly substantial town that thrived from the 2nd century BC until 2nd century AD.

Vats where garum was produced.
Temples, market, forum, amphitheater make up excavated ruins. And, beside the sea, are pits where garum, the salsa of the ancients, was produced. Garum, made of tuna guts fermented, brined and seasoned, was the earliest manufactured food produced in Spain and shipped back to Rome.

If in Roman times this was a thriving commercial port, nowadays it is a quiet beach where cattle mosey almost to the water’s edge and kite surfers crisscross the sky. North Africa looms in the haze over the sea (this is the Atlantic).

Beach and dunes at Bolonia.

I love landscapes, seascapes and Roman ruins, but what I really like about excursions is lunch. Just beyond the archeological enclosure are several chringuitos, beach-shack restaurants. Ensconced on a terrace out of the wind, we ordered a lunch of fresh seafood.

Coquinas, small wedge-shelled clams, cooked with garlic and wine, para picar, to share while our fish cooked, then a whole grilled fish for each of us.

Coquinas are tiny wedge-shell clams.

We chose borriquete, identified in Alan Davidson’s book, The Tio Pepe Guide to the Seafood of Spain and Portugal (Santana Books, 2002) as “rubber-lip grunt,” a type of bream, because it looked marvelously fresh. The waiter told us it is fished right off this coast, whereas the sea bass come from a piscifactoria, or fish farm.

The fish (priced by weight—and these were big ones!) were simply grilled on a plancha, a flat griddle. No sauce was served with it (some garum, perhaps?), but roasted red peppers and patatas fritas came alongside. We devoured every morsel. The flesh was sweet and moist, the skin crackly.

Borriquete--a type of bream--grilled to perfection.

Coquinas a la Marinera
Fishermen-Style Clams

In Andalusia, tiny clams such as the wedge-shells in the photo are prepared this way, with garlic, parsley and wine. But you can use slightly larger Manila clams too. This is usually served as a plate for sharing. Place the pan in the middle of the table and accompany with chunks of bread for sopping up the sauce.

Serves 3 to 4 as a shared starter.

2 pounds clams
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup water
piece of chili (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Wash the clams in running water. Discard any shells which are opened or cracked.

In a cazuela or deep skillet heat the oil and sauté the garlic 1 minute. Stir in the flour, then add the clams. On a high heat, add the wine, water and chili. Cover and shake the pan until the clam shells open. This takes 3 to 4 minutes.

Remove from heat when most of the shells have opened. Top with chopped parsley. Serve immediately with bread.

Roasted peppers served with grilled fish.


  1. Hace, muy poquito visité las ruinas de Baelo Claudia, era un dia luminoso, pudimos ver Africa claramente. Es increible nuestra historia, nuestros monumentos arqueológicos !!!!
    Gracias por compartirlos.
    ¡¡ Y ésas coquinas que en Málaga tambien disfrutamos a la plancha !! Qué ricas.......

  2. I would very much like to use your photo of the garum vats to illustrate an article. I will of course give credit. Would you please give permission

    1. Jeremy: Yes, you may use my photo of the garum vats, with credit. I also appreciate links to my blog. Thank you for asking permission.