Grilled Squid

Mitch Tonks runs RockFish Grill & Seafood Market in Clifton, Bristol. He is an award-winning chef, restaurateur and food writer and has two other seafood restaurants in Dartmouth.

Here’s the Catch

With sustainable fishing top on the agenda, each month new flavour columnist and seafood specialist Mitch Tonks cooks up a storm with his seasonal fish of choice…

Squid works well with strong flavours, the salty meatiness of chorizo; the spike of hot chilli; the zesty freshness of citrus fruit and the aromatic woody herbs of rosemary or, best of all, thyme.

Squid has always been immensely popular in continental Europe and enjoyed by Brits holidaying abroad in the form of calamari, the ubiquitous dish of squid which has been deep fried for a few seconds in a hot crisp batter and then eaten hot and dipped in a garlicky aioli. Ah dreams of the Mediterranean!

It is increasingly popular with chefs in the UK, as we catch some really wonderful squid in the South Coastal waters, but it is showing up on menus braised, fried, grilled, barbecued and paired with Asian flavours. One of the reasons I think it is popular on menus is that people are still a bit nervous of both preparing and cooking squid, so eating it when out is a good option. It is a bit of an ugly beast and there is some fiddling around to be done to remove the skin and membrane or quill but this can all be done by your fishmonger who will also score it or slice it into rings if that is what you prefer. Freshness is easily recognised by it’s shiny white flesh (once washed and membrane removed) and a delicate smell of the ocean and nothing more. Squid is, like all fresh food, perishable, and ideally you should buy it the day you want to eat it.

When you cut into fresh squid the pure white flesh yields like soft rubber but, and this is a big but, none of that rubbery quality is evident in the mouth when it has been cooked correctly. Most people go wrong at this stage and worry they need to cook it for longer than a minute or two and this is when you will change that texture resulting in something a bit chewy. Either cook it very very fast or braise it for an hour or more – nothing in between, don’t lose your nerve and you will get fantastic results!

Grilled Squid with Garlic, Chilli, Parsley

(Serves two as a starter)
2 squid weighing about 150g each
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 dried bird’s eye chilli
Juice of one lemon and a little zest
Pinch of cumin
Small handful of parsley, finely chopped
Olive oil

To Make

  1. Heat the grill or barbecue to maximum.
  2. First make the dressing by putting some olive oil in a pan and adding the garlic, chilli, lemon juice and zest and salt, turn up the heat and allow the garlic to flavour the oil. Continue to cook gently and as soon as the garlic starts to brown, remove from the heat.
  3. When your coals are nice and white and the grill bars are nice and hot, brush the squid with olive oil and salt, not forgetting the tentacles. Place on the grill and cook for 5 -6 minutes either side.
  4. You will get nice golden marks from the grill. Serve the squid on a plate, putting the tentacles at the bottom, just as if you were putting it back together. Taste the dressing and spoon over the squid.

Recipe taken from FISH by Mitch Tonks published by Pavilion. Photo by Chris Terry

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