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PERSIANA

PERSIANA

I had been counting down the days until this book came out, so I'm thrilled to be able to draw your attention to it now. But it also presents me with a dilemma, as it is so very hard to choose just one recipe; every page made me salivate. Sabrina Ghayour's Middle-Eastern-plus food is all flavour, no fuss - and makes me very, very happy. I've selected the Spice-Salted Squid for the simple reason that it's the recipe I've earmarked to cook first.

 

Spice-Salted Squid

 

From Persiana: Recipes From The Middle East & Beyond by Sabrina Ghayour, published by Mitchell Beazley, 2014. Photographs by Liz and Max Haarala Hamilton.

 

No matter what form of squid I have eaten - whether in curries, chargrilled, stuffed, baked or deep-fried - I adore the stuff. It is still relatively cheap to buy, especially when frozen, which is perfectly fine. I like to use the smaller squid tubes rather than the giant ones, which I find comparatively tough. In this dish, the squid is crunchy and delicious. The same cooking method and coating also works well with tiger prawns.

 

Serves 4-6 as part of a mezze

700ml (1¼ pints) vegetable oil, for frying

750g (1lb 10oz) baby squid (frozen works well)

2 tbsp black peppercorns

3 tbsp sea salt

3 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp ground coriander

1½ tsp turmeric

70g (2½oz) cornflour

 

Put the oil in a large, preferably slightly deep, frying pan (or even in a cooking pot, if you prefer) over a high heat and allow it to get nice and hot, but do not let it smoke.

Meanwhile, cut the squid tubes into rings - up to about 1cm (½in) thick is ideal - and leave the tentacles whole. Dry them as best as possible using a clean tea towel or kitchen paper and set aside.

Using a pestle and mortar, crush the peppercorns as best you can, then add the sea salt and other spices and grind them until they are evenly combined. You don't need to make a fine powder of the spices, so don't worry about the odd chunks of broken peppercorns.

Combine the cornflour with the spice mix in a plastic sandwich or freezer bag and give the mixture a good shake to ensure the ingredients are evenly distributed. Add the squid and toss the flour and spices lightly over it without excessively handling the squid itself, as otherwise you will create a paste when the flour combines with the juice of the squid, which you want to avoid.

Shake off the excess flour from the squid pieces and fry them in batches, without overcrowding the pan too much. Cook each batch for about 1-1½ minutes, depending on the oil temperature, or until you can see them browning and becoming crispy. Using a slotted spoon, drain the squid on plates lined with kitchen paper and serve hot.

 

Variation: To make a quick dip, stir some quince paste into a tube of shop-bought aioli to give it a real Middle Eastern flavour.