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Dirty job? Bring it on!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I have no problem getting my hands dirty (though nothing like Mike Rowe's dirty jobs!). Prawns to shell and devein? No worries. Fish to scale? Sure. A whole chicken to cut up? Em, okay, but only if it's free-range because unlike industrial chicken, it doesn't smell and it's not slimy.

Not that all things slimy gross me out. In fact, I find cleaning and skinning squid - already, some people are repelled, but call it calamari and they start licking their lips - quite relaxing. There's something about detaching the head, feeling for and removing the hard beak from the centre of the tentacles, getting rid of the innards and cartilage, and peeling off the mottled red skin that makes cooking and eating the squid later so much more satisfying. Unfortunately, I almost always puncture the ink pouch, and my sink is black after I clean squid, but that's what soap and water are for.

Speaking of ink, Alan Davidson's magisterial The Penguin Companion to Food states that squid is found in all oceans and seas, except the Black Sea. Ironic, isn't it? Here's a little bit of what he writes:
"All squid are remarkable in one aspect. The processes of natural selection have operated on them in a manner which suggests that fitness for being stuffed by cooks in kitchens was a criterion for their survival... Alternatively, the body can be sliced across to form rings, which... can be deep-fried..."
Or simply grilled and mixed with some raw greens like this:

I saw a picture in Donna Hay (Issue 13: Summer) for barbecued lemon and mint squid salad and liked it (of course I would; the magazine has fantastic pictures!) but I changed the recipe slightly, substituting 1 clove of garlic (crushed) with Szechuan peppercorns in the marinade, and using lime juice instead of lemon. Donna Hay had styled its plate with an equal amount of squid and leaves, but as you can see from my picture, I like my greens.

For the recipe...

Serves 2

4 large squid hoods (about 250g)
2 cups baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup mint leaves

Marinade (combined)
1/2 tsp Szechuan peppercorns, toasted and ground
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp oil (olive, vegetable, sunflower)
  • Make a cut down one side of each squid hood to open out flat. Lightly score hoods using diagonal cuts (take care not to cut all the way through the flesh). Place squid in a non-metallic bowl and pour over half the marinade (reserve the remaining half). Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Heat a grill pan and cook squid for one minute on each side or until cooked through. Slice into bite-sized pieces and toss with spinach and mint. Spoon over remaining marinade.

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