This month’s summery dish channels our fond feelings for the Mediterranean and memories of steamy platters of fresh seafood topped off with a herby zing from our own sharp salsa verde.
Fussy eaters retain a certain squeamishness for squid but these fast-moving molluscs grace tables the world over: battered and served with chips in the Antipodes, fried throughout Asia and gobbled by the mouthful across northern Europe and the US as a salt’n’pepper-lashed starter. In spite of a reputation for being rubbery, it can be enjoyed raw as sashimi; it only attains a leathery toughness when it’s under-done by over-cautious (or plain careless) cooks.
Calamari, as it often surfaces as on menus, is a nom de plume that stems from the Latin for “ink pot”, a poetic turn of phrase given to the black fluid a squid squirts to avert its undersea predators (humans aren’t alone in liking them: marlins, tuna, groupers, sharks, rays and dolphins also enjoy the taste). It’s a fairly forthcoming meal after all: most of the squid is edible. It’s just us humans who discard the beak and gladius, or “quill” as some cooks call it.
Even the ink is a delicacy, often added to pasta, paella or fish dishes for its dramatic obsidian colour and subtle saltiness. The tougher tentacles – beloved by fathers for teasing picky kids – are gamier and more often deep fried. The body, sometimes known as the “hood”, is usually sliced widthways into rings or scored with a knife so it curls alluringly like the twirl of a snail shell when heat is applied.
We’ve paired this tasty marine mainstay with the piquant kick of our own take on a salsa verde – or Grüne Sosse or chimichurri or just plain green sauce, depending on where you hail from. Ours is somewhere between the Italian, French and Spanish iterations – and a celebration of each – made with mint, dill, parsley, capers, chilli and the savoury astringent tang of white vinegar (just a tablespoon, mind). Buon appetito.
Recipe & food styling
25g mint leaves, chopped
25g flat leaf parsley, chopped
25g dill, chopped
1 tbsp of capers, rinsed and drained
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 green chilli, finely chopped with seeds
1 tbsp of white vinegar
¼tsp sea salt
100ml olive oil
*Shoestring fries *
700g to 800g floury potatoes
5 to 10 sprigs rosemary
1 ltr vegetable oil
4 fresh, medium squid, cleaned and scored on both sides (you can ask your fishmonger to do this)
4 lemon wedges to serve
Combine all the ingredients for the salsa verde in a food processor, taste and adjust for seasoning. Add a splash of water if the mixture needs loosening up.
For the shoestring fries, heat the oil in a large stockpot, slowly bringing the temperature to 180c.
Fill a large non-reactive bowl with water. Using a mandolin, julienne the potatoes, then place them in the water for 15 minutes to remove the starch. Take the potatoes out of the water and place them on paper towels to dry. Pat the potatoes gently with paper towels until they are completely dry (this is essential to get the fries crispy).
Test the oil using one of the julienned potatoes – it should bubble vigorously. Place a small number of the potatoes in the oil and fry, stirring every 3 to 4 minutes until golden and crispy, dropping the rosemary leaves into the oil for the final 30 seconds of each batch. Carefully scoop the potatoes from the oil with a slotted spoon and place them on a tray covered with paper towels. Season immediately. Repeat until all potatoes are fried. Keep warm in a low oven (100c).
Brush squid with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Place a griddle pan over a high heat and then grill squid for approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until opaque.
Serve the grilled squid with a generous drizzle of salsa verde, a lemon wedge and the shoestring fries.