Recipe for squid or calamari stew Restaurants, Wine, Travel, Opinions

Squid or calamari stew recipe

Reviewed By

Sue Dyson and Roger McShane

Calamari and squid is plentiful and relatively low-cost but most people's experience of it is confined to those ghastly concoctions with the consistency of rubber that are served masquerading under the name of deep fried calamari rings.
The problem with calamari is that it needs to be cooked for just a few seconds or for a long, long time over low heat. After the initial shock of the heat it tightens up and becomes quite tough. Long cooking, however, teaches it to relax and give up its natural flavour to the surrounding juices. (By the way, abalone can be cooked using the same technique.)
We have developed a stew where the flavours are gradually layered in to ensure a complex, yet refreshing flavour with hints of anise, saffron, citrus and, finally, some fresh herb flavours from flat-leaf parsley and mint.
The night before you are to make this dish, pour some boiling water into a vial of Tasmanian saffron to allow it to give up its flavour to the liquid overnight.
Ingredients to serve 6
2 onions chopped into small dice
2 garlic cloves chopped finely
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 fennel bulbs chopped into centimetre squares
4 ripe Roma tomatoes (or similar) chopped into small chunks
2 kilos of calamari, cleaned and sliced into centimetre squares
6 potatoes cut into half centimetre cubes (use pinkeye or kipfler potatoes)
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon or lime zest
2 tablespoons of lemon or lime juice
100 milligrams of saffron soaked in hot water overnight
2 tablespoons Pastis (Pernod, Ricard, Jean Boyer etc) - this is optional but delicious
half bottle white wine such as Riesling or Albarino
Water or chicken stock to cover - adding chicken stock to fish dishes gives a richer, more 'rounded' texture
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped mint
To prepare
Phone your fishmonger and ask for two kilos of cleaned calamari - they can do it very quickly. They might charge you a bit extra, however. Ask for the tentacles to be included as these are very tasty.
Now prepare the first layer of flavour. Heat the olive oil in a large thick-bottomed pan and add the onion. Sweat the onions over low heat so that they do not brown. Stir occasionally so they don't stick to the bottom of the pan. You want them to become soft and translucent. They must be cooked through to start proving the flavour base. When they start to become soft add the garlic. Continue cooking for a few minutes until you have a mellow mass in the pan.
Now add the fennel and stir for about five minutes - you may need to add some more olive oil if the mixture starts to stick.
Add the tomatoes and continue to stir. When the tomatoes begin to collapse and give up some of their liquid add the pastis (optional), white wine and enough water or chicken stock to cover the vegetables if necessary. Simmer for five minutes and then add the diced calamari and the saffron liquid and stamens, the citrus rind and some salt and pepper to taste. Top up with water or chicken stock if necessary. Simmer for 45 minutes then add the potato cubes and cook for another 30 minutes or until both the potato and calamari are soft.
Note it is important that the liquid is always just barely simmering. It should not boil.
(At this stage the dish can be cooled and reheated just before serving. Reheating actually improves the flavour somewhat!)
Add the lemon juice, simmer for a few final minutes and then adjust the seasoning. Take the stew off the heat and stir through the mint and parsley. Serve in a large bowl at the table accompanied by crusty bread and a big bowl of spinach or silver beet.
Copyright Sue Dyson and Roger McShane 2006
This recipe must not be reproduced in print or displayed on another Web site in part or whole without the written permission of the authors.
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