Calamari is most associated with the battered and deep-fried accompaniments to chips in fish restaurants. Paired with a tart sauce, it can be the perfect meal without leaving you feeling uncomfortably full.
But more accomplished cooks are now using squid and cuttlefish more creatively. There are those who flip for the tentacles, while others use the black ink squids use for protection to delicately flavour and colour pasta and risotto.
Most of the calamari we buy in fish shops and supermarkets is in the form of rings or cleaned tubes. The thick steaks or strips come from jumbo squids which thrive at great depths, and there is an abundance of them. It is also possible to buy whole squid which then has to be cleaned.
Even though calamari comes from the seafood counter already cleaned, it is a good idea to wash it again before cooking.
Always check the inside of tubes to make sure the quill has been removed – it resembles a shard of plastic and can cause choking if eaten.
Pat the calamari dry thoroughly before cooking or it will end up stewing instead of frying. The water can also cause terrible splattering if you fry calamari in hot oil.
Calamari must be cooked either a very short time or a very long time. Anything in-between turns it into rubber. The rule of thumb is that you should only cook calamari for one or two minutes, or you should cook it for more than 20 minutes.
Soaking calamari in milk for a minimum of two hours will help to tenderise it.
CRUMBED CALAMARI STRIPS
375ml fresh white breadcrumbs
80ml grated Parmesan cheese
60ml chopped parsley
salt and pepper
125ml seasoned flour
2 eggs, beaten
16 frozen calamari strips, defrosted
oil for frying
60ml plain yoghurt
5ml grated lime rind
10-15ml lime juice
15ml chopped capers
Combine the breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley and seasoning and mix well. Place in a shallow dish.
Put the flour and eggs into separate dishes.
Make sure the calamari strips are well dried.
Dip in the flour then egg and lastly in the crumb mixture.
Fry in hot oil until crispy and golden.
Drain on paper towel and serve with the sauce.
SAUCE: Combine all the ingredients and mix well.
CALAMARI, CHICKPEA AND CHORIZO SALAD
1 red pepper
400g tin of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
a bunch of parsley, roughly chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
100ml olive oil
225g chorizo sausage, cut into chickpea-size chunks
600g cleaned calamari, sliced and tentacles kept whole
juice and zest of 1 large lemon
Cook the pepper whole under a grill, until completely charred.
Place the charred peppers in a plastic bag and leave to cool. Peel and slice into strips.
In a large bowl, mix the peppers, chickpeas, parsley, chilli and garlic. Heat a large frying pan until hot, add a splash of olive oil and fry the chorizo until crisp, then add to the peppers.
Fry the calamari in the same pan for 1 minute.
Add to the peppers, then dress with the remaining oil, lemon juice and zest.
Mix together and serve.
CALAMARI AND WATERMELON SALAD
60ml fresh coriander
60ml fresh mint
15ml grated lemon rind
30ml lemon juice
60ml olive oil
1 garlic clove, chopped
400g calamari rings
500g watermelon, rind removed and sliced
1 large avocado, sliced
1 small cucumber, peeled into ribbons
2 discs of feta
30ml olive oil
15ml lemon juice
15ml white balsamic vinegar
Process coriander, mint, lemon rind and juice, olive oil, chilli and garlic in a food processor until combined. Season. Combine with the calamari in a glass bowl, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to marinate.
Meanwhile, prepare watermelon, avocado and cucumber and arrange on a platter.
Remove calamari from fridge. Heat a large frying pan until hot, add 30ml olive oil and fry the calamari for 2-3 minutes until just cooked.
Scatter over salad, crumble over the feta and drizzle with the dressing.
DRESSING: Whisk dressing ingredients together. Set aside.
CALAMARI WITH GRILLED VEGETABLES
200g calamari tubes
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
extra olive oil
200g courgettes, trimmed
1 bulb of fennel, trimmed and thickly sliced
200g sun-dried tomatoes
100g rocket, for serving
Cut the calamari open along the body line and crisscross score the inside.
Place in a bowl with the olive oil, lemon juice, chilli, honey and salt.
Mix and marinade for 30 minutes.
Cut the courgette and fennel lengthways into 3 or 4 slices. Brush with olive oil and cook on a griddle pan for a few minutes, until charred.
Remove and place in a bowl.
Add the tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Cook the calamari on a very hot griddle for 15-30 seconds on each side.
Pile some rocket on a plate, surround with griddled calamari and vegetables.
SALT AND PEPPER CALAMARI
800g cleaned baby calamari hoods and tentacles
3 egg whites, lightly beaten
250ml cornflour seasoned with 5ml salt flakes and 5ml black pepper
lemon wedges to serve
sweet chilli sauce to serve
Dry the calamari well on paper towel.
Dip in egg white then in the cornflour, shake off the excess and drop carefully into hot oil.
Fry until crispy and drain on paper towel.
Serve with lemon wedges and sweet chilli sauce.
COUSCOUS STUFFED CALAMARI
60ml boiling water
1 red onion, finely chopped
125ml grated haloumi cheese
5ml grated lemon rind
45ml chopped parsley
30ml chopped mint
16 medium calamari tubes, cleaned
15ml olive oil
60ml lemon juice
Put the couscous in a bowl and pour over the water. Cover and set aside for 10 minutes. Then fluff up with a fork.
In the meantime, heat the oil in a small pan and fry the onion until soft. Remove and add to the couscous.
Add the cheese, lemon rind and juice, herbs and seasoning. Mix until well combined.
Stuff the tubes with this mixture. Close the open end of the tube with a toothpick.
Heat the olive oil and butter in a frying pan and cook the stuffed tubes for 3-4 minutes a side until golden brown.
Add the lemon juice and swirl to coat the tubes with the sauce.
Serve either warm or cold.