This is a messy pile of mouth-tingling deliciousness, with pieces of charred squid interspersed with a loose sauce and roast peppers – like a bad Jackson Pollock in 3D form.
In one bite you might get a pleasingly pure, acid-licked piece of cephalopod that's been caught only by lemon juice. In the next there's a fiery burst of roast chilli, the tickle of pul biber flakes, lashings of the sweet quick romesco and, perhaps, another jolt of heat from a one-in-10 chance of a fiery Padrón pepper. The fruity and mild to hot characteristics of each of the different peppers jostle for power; I like the Russian roulette nature of it all.
The instructions below assume you are in your kitchen. But it's ideal, too, cooked outside over flames; indeed, barbecue weather could well prompt a craving for something like this.
Serves 4 as a communal starter, or as part of a bigger meal
- 1kg whole squid, cleaned
- 1tsp pul biber (Aleppo pepper flakes)
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
- 2tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 1tsp caster (superfine) sugar
- Leaves picked from 20g flatleaf parsley, roughly chopped
- 3-4 long mild red chillies
- 130g Padrón peppers
- Flaky sea salt
For the romesco sauce
- 150g jarred roasted red peppers, plus 2tbs liquid from the jar
- 1tsp caster sugar
- ½tsp sweet smoked paprika
- 1tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 1tsp sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
- 40g blanched unsalted almonds
- ½tsp flaky sea salt
Put all of the ingredients for the romesco sauce in a blender and pulse until not completely smooth – a few gritty pieces of nuts provide a pleasing textural contrast. Taste and stir in an extra drop of vinegar or an additional pinch of salt if required. Decant and set to one side to be spooned over the squid at the last minute.
If the fishmonger hasn't already cleaned the squid, pull the wings and any grey outer membrane away, discarding the membrane, but keeping the wings. Pull out the quill. Trim the tentacles away then locate the line running up the length of the body and cut along that to open the squid up. Scrape any excess gunge away, then use a table knife to score the inside of the squid in a close cross-hatch. Cut the squid into just two or three large pieces – to fit your griddle and or grill surface. Sprinkle and rub with the pul biber and set to one side on a plate or similar.
Prepare a large mixing bowl with a dressing for the squid and chillies to go in once cooked.
Combine the lemon juice from two to three of the wedges with the olive oil, sugar, some salt, and two-thirds of the chopped parsley.
Char the red chillies and Padrón peppers on a hot griddle pan or over an outdoor grill, so that they are blackened but still juicy. Quickly cut the red chillies down the middle lengthways and scrape the seeds away. If the blackened skin comes off in your hand, pull that away too. Otherwise don't worry, chop roughly and add these along with the (whole) Padrón peppers to the dressing bowl.
Lay the squid pieces on the still smoking-hot griddle or grill, scored-side down. Press to encourage charring, then after 60 seconds turn the squid pieces over, and with your tongs or a fork prompt the squid to roll into pleasing cylinders. Remove and immediately chop into rings, then add to the dressing bowl and mix.
Let the squid rest for a minute, then decant everything onto a platter. Add the remaining parsley and a few more squeezes of lemon. Eat immediately.
Serve either on its own, with new potatoes and a green salad, or atop warmed flatbreads.
Photography by Sam A Harris
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