Cooking squid at home can be a bit scary for two reasons – the process of transforming them from looking like little (peacefully sleeping) sea creatures to inanimate tubes ready for the kitchen, and the danger of ending up with conversation-stalling rubbery lumps if you overcook it.
Although the cleaning process involves a number of steps, like many things it’s really just a matter of figuring out where all the bits are located and then it’s quite straightforward. You can probably buy the tubes already prepared from your local fishmonger or supermarket, but I imagine the cost per kilo would be a fair bit more for these so I urge you to have a go at the cleaning process yourself. You never know what you might find.
Arrr! Out with yer guts! The first step is to separate the head from the tube. You do this by firmly but gently grasping the head in one hand and pulling it away from the tube/body. Be careful not to rupture the ink sac as you do this, so that it remains intact until you throw it at an unsuspecting friend.
Now off with yer ‘ead! Cut the head/tentacles part just below the eyes, and discard the top head/guts part.
Who’s a pretty polly then? Push the beak (the squid’s mouth.. it really is very beakish) out from between the tentacles and discard it/gross people out with it. Squark! Squark!
If that’s not bad enough, now you get him all naked. Peel the outer dark skin from the tube and discard.
..and dewing him to prevent escape. Remove the wings and discard (or peel them and add to the stuffing mixture).
Remove the hard quill that runs up the back of the tube like a spine.
Once you have done all this, give them a really good clean inside and out. Some of my squid were carrying a lot of sand and grit inside them.
You may encounter some little surprises when cleaning your squid. One of mine was surprisingly plump. Nay, he was suspiciously plump. After further investigation and then much tugging, I managed to free a mystery item and was a little horrified by what I found. A hideaway fish!
Once you’ve done the hard yards cleaning out your squid, you can do with it what you will! I don’t have a lot of experience cooking with squid, but I thought I’d have a go at my own interpretation of the stuffed squid recipe shown on Australian MasterChef a couple of years back.
Stuffed Squid with Green Bean, Olive & Tomato Salad
Recipe adapted from MasterChef 2009
Serves 8 as an entree (starter for the North Americans)
- 8 smallish squid (~10cm long), cleaned as shown above
- 6 anchovy fillets
- 5 scallops (mine had no roe)
- 7 prawns, shelled
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 4 eschallots, finely chopped
- 1.5 cups fresh ciabatta or sourdough breadcrumbs (substitute with GF or low-carb bread here if necessary)
- 3 tsp finely grated lemon rind, plus 1 Tb juice
- 4-5 Tb coarsely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
- 3/4 cup olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
- 500 g green beans, blanched and refreshed in cold water
- Punnet of grape tomatoes, slow roasted
- 6 Tb sherry vinegar (I used 2.5 Tb white wine vinegar, 2.5 Tb balsamic vinegar)
- 450 g marinated Kalamata olives, bruised and pitted
- Cut tentacles into 1.5 cm lengths. Chop the scallops and prawns into small cubes.
- Heat a splash of olive oil in a frying pan, then cook the anchovy, garlic and eschallots until soft.
- Add the tentacles, scallops and prawns to the pan and cook until opaque and only just cooked. Season to taste.
- Combine the tentacle mixture in a bowl with the lemon rind and juice, parsley and breadcrumbs. Mix well.
- Spoon the mixture into the squid hoods, leaving 1cm at the top to secure with a toothpick or two. Don’t be tempted to overstuff, as the mixture expands a little when cooking. (At this stage I then refrigerated the squid until I was ready to cook it later that evening.)
- Combine the tomatoes, beans, olives, 1.5 Tb olive oil and the vinegar in a bowl. Season to taste.
- Drizzle the squid hoods with a little olive oil. Heat a grill pan and cook the squid, turning until golden and squid is just cooked through. Remove squid from pan and slice. it up
- Divide the salad among plates and top with squid, one per person. Spoon any remaining dressing over to serve.
- If you have any stuffing mixture left over, it would be great to stuff into anything else – capsicum, mushrooms – or as an omelette filling, or I just added it to some sautéed vegetables for an easy lunch.
- I wasn’t enamoured by the salad match, thinking the firmness of the beans didn’t suit the softness of the squid and stuffing. I think it would be better to perhaps replace the beans with salad or steamed Asian greens.