If you’re anything like me your preparation of squid has not far surpassed the ubiquitous salt and pepper, deep-fried variety, or marinated, char-grilled curls served with a wedge of lemon. While squid lends itself to long, slow cooking on a low heat i’d had not ventured beyond the ‘cook it quick, eat it quicker’ mentality that deep frying or barbecuing demands.
While i was seeking inspiration for The Food Sage’s Sustainable Seafood Challenge, i stumbled across a recipe for Spanish style stuffed squid served with rice that was cooked in the manner of a risotto.
Squid is listed by the Australian Marine Conservation Society as a “better choice” seafood, which means it is generally resilient to fishing pressure at current levels, has a history of stable catches, or is caught or farmed using techniques that have a lower environmental impact.
The GoodFishBadFish site points out that squid, cuttlefish and calamari have short life spans and fast growth rates, making them resilient to fishing pressures.
I’d just arrived home from the Sydney Fish Market armed with a small squad of whole squid – they had won me over with their glistening, purple-speckled loveliness – so i decided to push the boat out and put the recipe to the test.
The recipe is from the book A little taste of … Spain published by Murdoch Books.
Rice with stuffed squid
8 small squid, cleaned tentacles reserved
1 small onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons currants
2 tablespoons pine nuts
25 g (1/3 cup) fresh breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon chopped mint
1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons plain flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
60 ml (¼ cup) dry white wine
400 g tin chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon sugar
1.25 litres (5 cups) fish stock
60 ml (¼ cup) olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
275 g (1 ¼ cups) short-grain rice
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 teaspoons squid ink
60 ml (¼ cup) dry white wine
60 ml (¼ cup) tomato paste
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Finely chop the tentacles and onion in a processor. Heat the oil in a saucepan and cook the currants and pine nuts over low heat until the nuts are browned. Remove. Add the onion mix, cook gently for 5 minutes, then stir into the pine nut mixture with the breadcrumbs, herbs and egg. Season. Stuff into the squid bodies, close the openings and secure with toothpicks. Dust with flour.
To make the sauce, heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the onion over low heat until soft. Stir in the garlic, wine and 125 ml (½ cup) of water. Cook over a high heat for 1 minute, then add the tomato, bay leaf and sugar. Season, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the squid to the pan in a single layer. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, or until tender.
To make the rice, bring the stock to a simmer in a saucepan. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook the onion over low heat until soft. Add the garlic, rice and cayenne. Mix the ink with 80 ml (1/3 cup) of stock, add to the rice with the wine and tomato paste and stir until the liquid has almost evaporated. Add 250 ml (1 cup) of stock, simmer until this evaporates. Add the remaining stock, a cup at a time, until the rice is tender and creamy. Cover and leave off the heat for 5 minutes. Season. Stir in the parsley. Put the rice on a serving plate, arrange the squid on top and spoon on the sauce.
I confess to leaving out the squid ink (oversight) and currants (pantry malfunction). The latter would definitely have added another flavour layer to what was otherwise a one-dimensional dish. The rice overpowered, i suspect because was too heavy handed on the garlic (one of the cloves i used could have passed for two easily). With less garlic in the rice, and currants in the squid stuffing it would have been a more balanced dish. Next time i will also go heavier on the mint in the stuffing and add some lemon zest, too.
However, i’m glad i took the plunge. This was a fulfilling dish. We washed it down with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon from one of our favourite Hunter Valley wineries – Petersons – and revelled in the warmth that this well matched duet delivered on a cold, rainy Saturday evening.
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