18 October 2010

a few squid is all it takes

I love calamari (also referred to as 'squid'), so it's unusual that I've never once cooked with it before.  I mean, I get well excited if I see it on a restaurant menu (not including fake calamari rings you see on pub menus, though they too have their time and place).  So you can imagine my excitement when, over the weekend, whilst reading a recipe for 'squid and saffron rice salad' Emma offered to show me how to cut up, prepare and use a whole squid.  I'd never even looked at the squid in the supermarket, frozen or otherwise, having always assumed that it must be terribly difficult to prepare.  Well, Em imformed me, it ain't necessarily so...

With making the aforementioned salad in mind we traipsed about the Taupo supermarket in search of our animal.  Unfortunately they were entirely out of whole squid.  So plan B - some frozen squid tubes, to make salt and pepper friend squid, as an appetiser.  Learning to cut up and prepare a whole squid will have to wait for next time.  

Once the squid had thawed out (doesn't take long, especcially on a warm day) Emma cut the tube along one side, so she could open it out flat.  She then scored it all over one side and cut into pieces (see awesome diagram).  When scoring the flesh it's best to use a slightly serrated butter knife, rather than a sharp kitchen knife, as they tend to make a wider cut, without just cutting right through (which you don't want).  Together we coated it in a mixture of flour and cornflour, seasoned with salt and pepper (a little paprika, lemon-pepper, garlic salt etc would make nice additions/substitutions here).   

Dave, reputed Squid Cook King, stepped in at this point, to take over my position as Emma's culinary partner, one I was happy to relinquish, leaving me watching as the coated strips of calamari were shallow-fried in a combination of hot butter and oil.  Don't cook for too long, or they'll become rubbery - they curl a wee bit when ready.  Serve hot, sprinkled with a little sea salt (Maldon was the preferred type on this occasion) and a good grind of pepper.

Nb: Be careful also not to oversalt them before serving - better to use the salt sparingly and place a dish of salt on the table, so people can add more to taste.  

04 October 2010

skulking in the stews

I love trying new recipes.  This was one I found on mindfood.com when having a look through their latest lot.  A few days after finding it there were 5 for dinner and it was a cold night, so what better than a warming, tasty casserole?  Until relatively recently I'd always thought of casseroles and stews as that tasteless, old-fashioned, boring meaty soup-glop.  But, having tried a few damn good casseroles over the past couple of years, and trying some different combinations myself, I've realised how wrong I was.

Casseroles (and stews, for that matter) are only boring if you leave it as meat, water and veges.  Blah.  Throw in some herbs and spices (especcially spices), and pan cook a bit before the liquid gets added and badabing badaboom, you're onto a winner.  Served with rice, couscous, pearl barley, pasta, toast (buttery toast with a tasty casserole, yum, now I'm almost wishing winter were back again!).  I'll try and hunt out a good recipe I had for a cuban-inspired casserole too, 'cause that was awesome.  It had a homemade salsa verde, with heaps of coriander.  But, for now - hearty cajun lamb!! 

2 tbsp olive oil
1 kg lamb rump steak, cut into 3 cm pieces (give or take)
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 red capsicum, finely chopped
3 stalks celery, finely chopped
good grinding of black pepper
1 tsp each salt, cajun, paprika and dried thyme
400 g tin tomatoes
1/2 cup chicken stock (or water)
rice, to serve
  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius.
  2. Brown lamb in large pan.  Once browned add onion, garlic, capsicum and celery, cooking for further 5 minutes or so. 
  3. Add spices, stir through, add tomatoes and stock.  Bring to the boil. 
  4. Transfer to casserole dish (with a lid).  Cover and cook for about an hour and a quarter.  Serve with rice.
Nb: I cooked ours for about an hour an a half, and it was fine.  Also, it stayed warm in the oven, once oven turned off, for a good hald hour more, so no hurry.  Just be sure it's not drying out and you're fine.