It’s the middle of the week, we’ve been on the road the last two days and I had a craving for some quick and easy seafood for dinner. Definitely a night for some Spicy Herby Calamari Rings. Living in Munich where the nearest ocean is around 600 kilometres away, I’ve made my peace with the lack of fresh seafood available. Luckily for me, while frozen squid is never going to beat fresh, with a bit of careful handling it can still be perfectly tender and delicious. A quick soak in some acidic buttermilk helps to soften it up, while a very light coating of seasoned cornflour and a very speedy dip in some hot oil will crisp the outside while keeping the inside buttery smooth.
I really enjoy most seafood served very simply. Whenever we are in Australia or New Zealand I consume vast quantities of freshly caught snapper (thanks Dad!) or succulent Sydney rock oysters, often with nothing more than a squeeze of lemon juice. Sometimes though, it’s nice to pair seafood with some complementary flavours – in this case, some fresh herbs, crunchy peanuts and zingy, fresh lime. And what would calamari be without a dipping sauce? My go-to is always a bowl of Sweet Chilli Mayo – it is so, so good. Let’s get cooking!
Spicy Herby Calamari Rings
- 400 g squid tubes/calamari, defrosted if frozen, cleaned and sliced into finger-width rings
- 100 ml buttermilk
- 100 g cornflour / cornstarch
- neutral oil or shortening for frying
- 2 red chillies, finely sliced
- 2 spring onions, finely sliced
- 100 g peanuts, roughly chopped
- small bunch parsley, roughly chopped
- 100 g rocket roughly chopped
- sea salt & pepper
- Sweet Chilli Mayo
- 2 limes, cut in wedges
Sweet Chilli Mayo:
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 100 ml neutral oil
- 2-3 Tbsp sweet chilli sauce
- Put the calamari into a glass dish, pour over the buttermilk, then cover and place in the fridge for 30 minutes - 1 hour.
- When you are ready to cook, pour the cornflour onto a plate, then season well with salt and pepper and set aside. Heat at least 5cm oil in a wide, heavy-based saucepan until it reaches 180°C / 350°F, or until the handle of a wooden spoon dipped into the oil forms lots of small, fizzy bubbles.
- Meanwhile remove the calamari from the fridge, then dredge around half of the rings through the cornflour mixture, shaking off any excess. Fry the floured calamari in the hot oil for 2 minutes in total, removing with a slotted spoon when cooked and transferring to a warm plate lined with a paper towel. Flour and fry the remaining calamari.
- Toss the hot calamari together with the chillies, spring onions, peanuts, parsley and rocket in a large bowl, then shake them out onto a large serving platter or individual plates. Serve with some lime quarters, more rocket if you like and Sweet Chilli Mayo.
- To make the Sweet Chilli Mayo, whisk the egg yolk and lemon juice together until foamy. While beating, drizzle in the oil, whisking well until you have a thick emulsion. Stir through the sweet chilli and season to taste with salt, pepper and extra lemon juice if necessary.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
I’m not sure how long to cook the calamari – is 2 minutes really enough?
Calamari is not tricky to cook but it has a golden rule – it can either be cooked very quickly, no more than 2 minutes or for a very long time – 45 minutes in a braise or stew. Anything in between and you’ll be eating very unpleasantly chewy rubber bands.
I don’t have buttermilk – any other options?
You can use the same amount of milk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice or yoghurt stirred through. It may look a little curdled but don’t worry, it will cook up just fine.
I don’t want to make my own mayo! Is there an alternative?
Yes of course, just use a good quality store bought mayonnaise or aioli!