View Ouzo calamari

Ouzo calamari

Meal type: , ,

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 5 minutes

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Dinner, Lunch, Starter,

About this recipe

‘I’m not eating that. Fish fingers are not circles.’  inspired this recipe.

My mum battled hard against my own food neophobia as a child. In an attempt to get me to try calamari, she appealed to my inner dancer – she would call the tentacles ‘twirly ballerinas’. Eventually it worked and I grew to embrace the soft cephalopod and its gentle fishiness. Associations in our minds often make their way into the kitchen – squid might be unfamiliar, but that doesn’t mean it’s difficult to prepare or cook, or that it’s completely unlike anything else. You just need to take a risk, and a leap of faith (or a leap of fish, in this case). And in the spirit of culinary association I’ve used a batter in this recipe instead of only dusting the squid in seasoned flour, which feels fish and chips-esque and takes me to my own memories of Friday night supper. And for cultural connection, in this grown-up version ouzo is used in the batter – its high alcohol content makes for lightest and crispest coating. A spritz of lemon before serving complements the aniseed flavour nicely. Although, as a child my choice to dip my calamari in ketchup wasn’t out of wilful condiment rebellion, or because I necessarily liked the sweet taste. I was simply trying to make the calamari feel more familiar. And perhaps my family will be ever oxymoronic (in a condiment sense, at least); my dad, to this day, still squeezes lemon juice on his Birds Eye fish fingers.

  • 500g cleaned squid
  • 100ml ouzo
  • 70g plain flour
  • 30g cornflour
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 100ml sparkling water
  • Pinch of salt
  • Rapeseed oil, vegetable oil or ground nut oil for deep frying
  • Lemon wedge to serve

This recipe will serve 2 as a main or 4 as a starter.

  1. Cut the squid into rings of about 1cm thickness. Leave any end-y bits and tentacles as they are – no need to chop these. Place in a bowl with 50ml of the ouzo and leave to infuse its warm aniseed flavour for about 30 minutes.
  2. Make the batter. In a large bowl, mix the flour, cornflour, bicarb, sparkling water, salt and the rest of the ouzo until fully combined and smooth in texture. This will only take 1-2 minutes.
  3. Heat the oil. You can use either a deep-fat fryer or a saucepan. For the latter you will need to ensure that the oil comes about half-way up the side of the pan, and use a medium-high heat. For either method, the temperature of the oil for frying will need to be around 180C. A good way to test whether the oil in the pan is ready is to gently dip the end of a wooden spoon in – it should bubble steadily, but not vigorously.
  4. When you are ready to cook, line two shallow bowls or plates each with a couple of sheets of kitchen roll and ensure the batter bowl, squid bowl and the fryer/pan are all in close proximity.
  5. Drain the squid of any excess watery-ouzo on one of the kitchen roll-lined plates, then place in the batter bowl and move it around to ensure it’s all coated evenly.
  6. Time to fry! Working quickly and carefully, lower pieces of the battered squid into the oil. Don’t overcrowd the fryer or the pan because this will lower the temperature, and the squid will steam rather than fry – it’s better to do fewer at a time. Fry for 1-2 minutes or until they are golden yellow-brown and visibly crunchy.
  7. Remove from the oil onto the second of the kitchen roll-lined plates to drain the excess oil. Spritz with lemon juice and serve immediately.

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