Bloke in the Kitchen. Sea-flavoured squid with potato wedges

kitchen

Taking the mystery and fear out of cooking

squid 4
Quick, easy and natural. Call them calamari if you must, but squid can be delicious

It’s an ugly little word, squid. Maybe that is why it is often referred to by its Italian name, calamari.

The squid is like a junior version of octopus, but it’s easier to cook. This recipe is called sea-flavoured because we’re not going to smother it with sauce: we’re just going to cook it quickly with the sea water that’s in it.

This is very different from the most common treatment: you often see deep-fried squid rings, made with bigger ones. They can be okay if you’ve got something good to dip them in, but that’s all the flavour you’re getting.

Baby squid are about the length of your fingers and the body is thin. They can be found in fishmongers’, supermarkets or even fishing tackle shops, because sea anglers sometimes us them as bait.

If you can find fresh ones, so much the better, but frozen is okay too. You will need to let them thaw before you start working with them.

Cleaning a squid means first cutting off the tentacles – they’re so small that nobody should be squeamish about them, but if one of your guests is, just keep them for yourself. Then you remove the funny little piece of clear material that gives it a bit of rigidity, almost like a spine. It looks like plastic and wouldn’t be a nice thing to find when you’re eating, so just pinch it between a finger and thumb and drag it out.

Finally there is the gunge to deal with: it’s slimy but not unpleasant or foul smelling, so don’t be afraid of it. You can turn a squid inside out if you want, or pinch it at the bottom (the closed end) and slide your grip up, forcing the stuff out.

This is going to take a few minutes for a few dozen baby squid, but it’s got to be done, and the good thing is that the actual cooking is very quick.

METHOD

Get the potatoes going first: microwave them for three or four minutes, depending on size, then, when there’s a bit of give in them, cut them into wedges and put them into a bowl or plastic storage box and sprinkle them with celery salt, black pepper and rosemary.

Get some oil hot in a pan and put the wedges in. Fry them until they are golden and crisping up, then remove and set aside.

squid 3
See? Nothing to be afraid of

In another (big) pan, fry some chopped garlic and finely-chopped chillies (mild if you can find them). When the garlic is starting to brown (and before it burns), sling in the cleaned squid. Toss them about a bit and just give them four or five minutes, then take one out and try it. It should be quite tender and taste just of itself and the sea and the garlic.

Arrange the potato wedges in a circle on the plate and put the squid in the middle (well, that’s just dressing the plate – you can arrange things however you like).

And that’s it. Knock up a quick salad of tomatoes and cucumber with olive oil and balsamic vinegar if you like.

With the fresh-tasting squid and the clean, healthy salad, it can feel like you’re doing this at a fishing harbour on a Greek island.

If you can find some dry Greek white wine, such as Retsina, that would be perfect. Otherwise, just a nice dry white from wherever. Or a glass of sparkling water. Just imagine the sun glinting off it.

 

Bloke in the Kitchen. Fish with potato wedges

kitchen

Taking the mystery and fear out of cooking

plaice
Lovely jubbly. Cook them for ten minutes and you’re in business

This is one of those recipes that is so simple and obvious that I can hardly believe I’m doing it.

I almost never eat fish in restaurants. Everything else just seems more interesting and tasty. But at home now and then, particularly with children or weight-conscious people to feed (including yourself) a nice piece of fish and some vegetables ticks all the boxes.

Supermarkets are full of breaded this and battered that, but you can also buy frozen (or even fresh) fillets, and cooking them is simplicity itself. For this recipe, for the UK we’re going to use plaice, which has the advantage that the fillets have no bones (because its spine is relatively solid and is easily removed, so you don’t get the stray ones that pop up with other fish). You could just as well use cod or haddock, and skate is a great option from a bones point of view because they are even thicker than plaice and you can just scrape the flesh off them on the plate. Those in the US and elsewhere could use tilapia; any fish that comes in wide, fairly thin fillets will do.

INGREDIENTS

Plaice fillets

Potatoes

Peas or a salad of tomatoes and cucumber

Preparation time – 1 min

Cooking time – 10 mins

METHOD

Scrub a few potatoes clean and stick them in the microwave for three minutes.

Make sure the fish is dry, then sprinkle on some salt and pepper. Grill or fry the fillets (in just enough oil to lubricate the pan) for five minutes on each side. (That’s grilling in an oven grill, by the way. If you’re using a barbecue you’ll have to take measures to make sure the fillets don’t get stuck or fall apart).

While that is happening, cut the nuked potatoes into wedges , sprinkle them with rosemary, salt and pepper, then fry them in a little oil until they go golden. They are already cooked, so you’re just giving them that tasty edge.

Boil the peas, strain and add a little butter.

OR

Wash the tomatoes and cucumber, cut the tomatoes into wedges and slice the cucumber, splash on some olive oil and not too much balsamic vinegar. Mix it up with your hands.

fish
Different fish, slightly chunkier, same principle. Quick, easy, tasty

Give people a wedge of lemon to squeeze on the fish if you like.

Finished. Tasty, light, low in calories and very little fat. Have another glass of Verdicchio (or sparkling water, non-drinkers).