Canned fish from the edge of the world where sea meets the land

(Part two of two Lisbon, Portugal tales)

Standing on the edge of the world at Cabo da Roca enjoying the horizon-filling view of the Atlantic Ocean open up, it’s easy to appreciate the risks fisherman take in the wild waters, hauling in nets full of fish.

Cabo da Roca, the edge of the world
Cabo da Roca, the edge of the world

Cabo da Roca is a two-hour train and bus ride west from the Portuguese capital, Lisbon. Popular with tourists who visit for that special experience of being on the edge, the journey takes you, in the words of the 16th Century Portuguese poet Luís de Camões, to the place ‘where the land ends and the sea begins’. It’s the furthest point of land on western Europe; next stop New England, USA.

Cabo da Roca 'where the land meets the sea'
Cabo da Roca ‘where the land meets the sea’

So why is standing at this particular point is special? It is, I believe, is that there is nowhere left to go on land … it’s literally of all European roads. And places at the edge,  Key West (Florida) or Tierra del Fuego (Argentina), are special places, often full of creative people, pushing beyond societies comfort zones.

The all important 'diploma' proving your visit to Cabo da Roca, just Euro11!
The all important ‘diploma’ proving your visit to Cabo da Roca, just Euro11!

Another thought we had standing on the promontory was the reverse journey taken by the fish to the markets in Lisbon and beyond. A port city, Lisbon is famous for both canned fish and fresh fish markets.

Conserveira da Lisboa's shop at Mercado da Ribeira
Conserveira da Lisboa’s shop at Mercado da Ribeira

The number of canneries in Lisbon can be now counted on one hand, but the tradition of canning and preserving lives on, famously through the city’s most iconic tinned goods supplier Conserveira de Lisboa (The Lisbon Cannery). The company has two shops, in the heart of the old city in Baixa, on Rua dos Bacalhoeiros, which translates as ‘Street of the Cod Boats’, and in the newly refurbished Mercado de Ribeira. Founded in 1930, the Conserveira has its own production lines, packing superb gourmet fish under the Tricana (premium quality), Minor (for smaller fish) and Prata do Mar brands. Tins are hand wrapped in the shop.

Family owned Conserveira is best-known for its tinned sardines, a staple of the Portuguese diet. Other products stacked high on wooden shelves include squid, tuna, cod, eel, octopus, mackerel, cockles and roe. Fish are caught in Portuguese waters, with provenance being important to the company.

Its Tricana brand is popular with first time buyers, with its premium quality fish. With its iconic image of a Tricana (a traditional style of women’s clothing from the Portuguese city of Póvoa de Varzim) women on the packaging, this is a popular present for family and friends back home. Canned fish keep for decades, although EU rules now demand a five-year eat before date is stamped on packaging.

Conserveira de Lisboa beautifully branded canned fish
Conserveira de Lisboa beautifully branded canned fish

So, if you can bear to open a Conserveira tin, breaking open its iconic packaging, what do you do with the fish inside? Here are three ideas from

Pizza topping
Roll out a thin pizza base, cover it with tomato sauce with a dash of chilli and flake over some tinned sardines. Bake at full whack and then finish with some thinly sliced red onion and a sprinkling of fresh chopped parsley.

Sardine spaghetti
Start by frying some sliced garlic, a little chilli, a handful of cherry tomatoes and a few capers. Cook some linguine (roughly 100g per person), drain and toss with it into the pan with a couple of tinned sardine fillets. Once hot, serve up and a drizzle of good-quality extra virgin olive oil.

Potato salad
Boil some new potatoes and make a dressing with natural yoghurt, a dash of red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, sliced spring onions and dill. Drain the potatoes, leave to cool slightly and then toss in the dressing. Flake in a few sardine fillets and sprinkle over some more freshly chopped dill.

Or you might try this idea from


Beetroot and sardine salad

Serves 6

60g cup sour cream
1 tablespoon bottled horseradish (not drained)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 (450g) jar pickled sliced beets, drained
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 can sardines in oil, drained

Stir together sour cream, horseradish, dill, and salt to taste. Cut beets into 1/2-inch cubes and toss with oil and salt to taste. Serve sardines on top of beets with sour cream mixture.

Bruce McMichael

Food writing, discovering food stories, meeting producers, chefs and food enthusiasts are all part of desire to inspire, inform my readers and fellow food lovers. I am a freelance writer, journalist and published author focusing on the international world of food and drink, culture and travel. In 2019 I graduated from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy with a Masters in Food Culture, Communication and Marketing. I am now a visiting Professor at the university teaching Food & Drink Writing. Based in London I travel widely, particularly across western Europe. I have chaired many conferences and meetings, spoken at conferences and events and often appear on radio and TV talking most about food, the business of food and being an entrepreneur. In 2017 I won an episode of the ITV (the UK-based national television channel) cooking competition show, 'Gordon Ramsay's Culinary Genius'. I took my children on holiday to Sicily with the prize money. As an experienced farmers' market manager and operator of a small marmalade/ preserves company, I am very familiar with the issues surrounding local food, farming, enterprise and the environment.