chickpea, chorizo and calamari salad 100214. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

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.



Serves 4

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


125ml mayonnaise

60ml plain yoghurt

5ml grated lime rind

10-15ml lime juice

15ml chopped capers

salt and pepper

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.



Serves 4

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

salt and pepper

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.



Serves 4

60ml fresh coriander

60ml fresh mint

15ml grated lemon rind

30ml lemon juice

60ml olive oil

1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped

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

salt and pepper

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.

Serve warm.

DRESSING: Whisk dressing ingredients together. Set aside.



Serves 4

200g calamari tubes

30ml olive oil

15ml lemon juice

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

15ml honey

2ml salt

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.



Serves 4

800g cleaned baby calamari hoods and tentacles

3 egg whites, lightly beaten

250ml cornflour seasoned with 5ml salt flakes and 5ml black pepper

oil for frying

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.



Serves 4

60ml couscous

60ml boiling water

30ml olive oil

1 red onion, finely chopped

125ml grated haloumi cheese

5ml grated lemon rind

15ml lemon juice

45ml chopped parsley

30ml chopped mint

salt and pepper

16 medium calamari tubes, cleaned

15ml olive oil

30g butter

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.


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