Monday, 5 January 2009

Squid Row!

One from the archives, I wrote this in 1994? it appeared in The Weekend Australian Review.


The first taste of a new ingredient often determines our long-term affinity to it.

If your first encounter with Parmesan cheese was one of those dry yellow powders masquerading for the real thing, you could be forgiven for dismissing a lot of Italian cooking as very scary. If after spending a good part of your pocket money on what tastes like a black golf ball from Perigord, you may think that black truffles are also a bit of a mystery.
Sweet and Sour Pork has had a rough ride, properly made it is one of the true classics of Cantonese cooking.
Also you could easily be put off good olive oil by tasting an ordinary example that’s past its [usually not displayed] use by date.

Calamari is an ingredient that many cooks and diners reject as difficult to prepare and tough.
Surprisingly few food writers differentiate between the main members of this family.

Ask a fishmonger what the difference is between calamari and squid and he will probably reply “about $8 a Kilo”. They are different fish, or more accurately different cephalopods. The “wings” on calamari extend along the full length of the body or “tube”, in squid the “wings” only come up about 1/3 of the way. Surprisingly, few recipes differentiate between them. Calamari is simple to cook always tender [including the tentacles and quite forgiving. Squid, well? You get what you pay for.
If the calamari is already cleaned in a tube or ring form, it is probably squid.
Seriously fresh calamari straight out of the water is more translucent than an old iMac, each hour out of the water it gets more opaque. The skin does not have to be removed and results in a fine crisp coating, not unlike tempura batter, when dusted with spiced flour and fried.
Cuttlefish, another cephalopod, is even more delicious and tender and sometimes as reasonably priced as squid. If you order calamari and it’s tough and rubbery, odds on you have been squiddled.

This dish is based on an early Mediterranean style of balancing sweet and sour. Rhubarb, verjuice and lemon for the acid, currants and honey for sweetness.


Calamari including tentacles, cleaned and cut into strips

Rhubarb cut into fine strips

Currants soaked in 5Oml of Retsina [yes retsina, but vermouth or Riesling will also work]
Sliced onions, garlic a little honey.
Olive oil, verjuice and lemon juice.
Saute the onions and garlic in a little olive oil. Add currants and the honey and cover.
Add the rhubarb and simmer for a minute and taste. Balance the sweet and sour with the verjuice and lemon. Season and set aside.
Drain a little of this sauce and use it to poach the calamari when tender add the rest of the sauce taste again and season. The rhubarb can be a bit crisp it adds a surprising texture.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You have provided an awesome site.
My web site > Melbourne Fishing Charter