Monday, 13 February 2012

Greek-Style Calamari

Today's recipe comes from a book called EatWellLiveWell with Gluten Intolerance which I bought from Holland and Barrett.  A few years back, the husband went to one of those Chinese herbalist places and they decided his general malaise was best treated with a really expensive cocktail of stewed forest floor sweepings.  Which smelt and tasted disgusting.  On top of that he should follow a wheat-, dairy-, tomato- and taste-free diet.
The stuffing

I spent weeks trying to perfect bread that lasted more than thirty minutes before going rock hard and didn't crumble the minute you tried to cut it.  We were introduced to the single gluten-free delight of Black Farmer sausages.  And I bought several recipe books on the subject, all of which are much thumbed but never used because the husband won't entertain anything containing pulses, fish, or vegetables and if there was a chicken dish he might eat, he'd only eat it with two slices of real bread which kind of defeated the object.

So in the original spirit of this blog, I decided I should at least try a few of the recipes myself.  The first being the afore-mentioned calamari.

Now I've only ever eaten my calamari deep fried and usually with a huge pile of aioli on the side.  One of my favourite tapas dishes.  Along with patatas bravas.  And the Spanish equivalent of Melanzane Parmiagana.  And those little meatball things.  And tortilla.  And mini paellas.  Okay, okay, I love tapas already!  Anyhow, this appealed as it was something different with squid.

Squid always reminds me of my first proper date with the husband.  The first time I spent the evening with him, he cooked for me at home (chicken dusted in flour and chargrilled chicken spice then fried served with pasta tossed in pesto; no pudding) because he spun me a line about how it was nicer we could sit in and talk to each other rather than sharing a restaurant with loads of other people.  In hindsight, I now reckon this is because he's 'discerning' in what he eats.

The next night, we went out to an Italian in Richmond-upon-Thames.  I ordered calamari for my starter.  It never occurred to me that the then boyfriend-to-be would baulk at the idea.  Nor that I too would end up baulking at my starter.  Because this was the first time I'd been served whole baby calamari.  Tentacles, eyeballs and all.  Deep-fried with a pile of garlicky aioli on the side.  I wanted to throw up.  Or at the very least hide them in my handbag.  But of course, wanting to make a good impression with the posh Tory Boy-type (or so I thought) who was wining and dining me in Richmond, I soldiered on and ate every last rubbery one.

The finished calamari (scuse the crap in the background!)
Months later when it had become increasingly evident that the husband has a limited palate, I broached the subject of the calamari.  "I couldn't believe you ate those" said he. "I nearly didn't ask you on a third date because I thought you were some strange freak for eating squid brains.  I wanted to throw up"  Ah, the things we do for love!

Anyhow, Ocado (or Waitrose - can't remember which) sell frozen squid tubes which I figured was more convenient than having to faff around and go to the fish mongers.  I'm not sure whether it was the cooking or the freezing of said squid that made it a little rubbery.  Or if it was just a rubbery squid in the first place.  But it has a weird and very firm texture that I didn't really warm to.  I've had 'regular' calamari with the same texture before and often wondered if it was the cooking method or that some calamari are just tougher than others.  Like how you sometimes get a tough bit of chicken or beef, no matter how carefully you cook it.

As for the filling, it was pretty tasteless.  The recipe didn't mention seasoning the stuffing or the sauce with salt and pepper.  It really needed it.  The delicate apricot flavour was overpowered by the rich tomato sauce.  In fact, the stuffing was completely devoid of taste if eaten with the sauce, but alone, the delicate herbs, onions and pine nuts came through.  The lemon zest and apricot still didn't.


This one is probably something that if I was a fan of squid, I'd experiment with.  But it didn't even make my world tremble enough to make me want to try it again.  I wish my world had been rocked.

Recipe - Serves 4

1kg cleaned squid tubes

Stuffing

  • 2tsp olive oil
  • 2 spring onions, sliced
  • 250g cold, cooked basmati rice
  • 4tbsp pine nuts
  • 4tbsp finely chopped dried apricots
  • 2tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten


Sauce

  • 400g tinned tomatoes (the recipe uses fresh but this is too faffy for a school night for me)
  • 2tsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 3tbsp good-quality red wine
  • 1tbsp chopped oregano



  1. Preheat the oven to 160c.  To make the stuffing, mix together all of the stuffing ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Wash the squid tubes and pat dry inside and out with paper towels.   Three-quarters fill each squid tube with the stuffing.  Secure the ends with toothpicks or skewers.  Place in a single layer in a casserole dish.
  3. To make the sauce, heat the oil in a frying pan.  Add the onion and garlic and cook over a low heat for two minutes or until the onion is soft.  Ad the tomatoes, wine and oregano and bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat, cover with a lid and cook for ten minutes.  I would advise seasoning to taste with a tsp of brown sugar and salt and freshly ground pepper.
  4. Pour the hot sauce over the squid, cover and bake for 20 minutes or until tender.  Remove the toothpicks before cutting into thick slices for serving.  Spoon the sauce over the top just before serving.

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