Squid was once considered only as a bait in Australia. It wasn’t that long ago, late 1970s, that Asian and Mediterranean influences put ika (Japanese) or the Italian calamari on our menus and then into our home kitchens.
My first recollection was eating squid at Milano’s restaurant with my Mum in Brisbane City in the very early 1970s. I then went looking for a source of squid and I recall that I had to buy it as ‘bait’ from the Coles store in Edward Street. Mum didn’t care for it much. In fact she predicted that squid would never become popular. Nowadays my family undertakes specific squid catching trips. And if we buy it for bait, we buy it from the fishmongers and keep the tentacles to eat and the hoods for bait.
There are a couple of hints and suggestions for this recipe. I prefer to purchase tins of whole tomatoes as opposed to the chopped variety. This way I know that I am getting whole tomatoes and not off-cuts and bits and pieces. To chop them, simply remove the lid from the tin and using a clean pair of scissors, chop the tomatoes in the tin to your desired consistency. Use long bladed scissors to keep your fingers clear of the sharp edges of the can.
I often grow my own tomatoes and they crop so well that I’ve usually got too many. For this recipe I will skin them first by dunking them in hot water for a few seconds. Alternatively you can leave the skins on for a more rustic texture.
The other suggestion is to include anchovies in the recipe. Even if you’re not an anchovy fan, trust me, the end result is a sauce that is richer in flavour but you won’t taste the anchovies).
I prefer to use baby squid rather than just the squid hoods. Baby squid, especially the tentacles, are a textural difference and much more fun to eat.
1kg baby squid or squid hoods
1tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely grated
250ml red wine
2x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
4-6 anchovy fillets, chopped (optional)
A small handful of oregano leaves, coarsely chopped
(1) Clean each baby squid by removing the tentacles from the hood (or body). All the ‘guts’ of the squid should come out when you remove the tentacles. Cut the ‘guts’ off and retain the tentacles as one bite-sized piece for use in the recipe. Remove the skin (usually by just rubbing your thumb over the squid) and the cartilage. The baby squid’s hood is also bite-sized. Give it all a quick wash and drain on some paper towel.
However, if you can only access larger squid, simply process as above and cut the hoods into thin rings.
(2) Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the onion. Stir fry for a few minutes until the onion has started to soften before adding the garlic. Cooking the onion for a few minutes before adding the garlic reduces the risk of the garlic burning and tasting bitter. Continue to cook for about three minutes or until the onion has completely softened.
(3) Add the squid (and the tentacles) to the saucepan with the onion and keep cooking for a couple of minutes. Pour the red wine into the pan and stir fry until the red wine has reduced by half. Add the tomatoes, anchovies and oregano to the pan and stir well to combine.
Allow the Mediterranean Squid to come to a gentle simmer and continue to cook, uncovered, for about an hour or until the squid is deliciously tender.
Spoon the Mediterranean Squid generously across the top of creamy polenta.
2 cups polenta
1/4 cup good quality olive oil
(1) In a large saucepan, combine the water and salt and bring to a boil. Gradually sprinkle the polenta across the top of the boiling water, stirring with a wooden spoon. Be careful to ensure that there are no lumps in the polenta. Take care when stirring the polenta because some times the mixture can splutter and spit.
(2) Reduce the heat to low, continuing to stir for about 20 minutes or until the polenta is creamy and thick.Reads: 1945