Sourcing ingredients: I prefer to get my seafood from a specialty food store to ensure freshness. I’ve been burned before. But it’s easy enough.
Total preparation and cooking time: 15 minutes to prepare, 10 minutes to fry.
Serves: Four for nibbles, but next time I make this it will just be for one. I will eat it all and I won’t even be sorry.
Difficulty: Dangerously easy.
I’m not a fan of seafood. Sometimes I think I am, but then when kingfish turns up on my plate stinking like fish, I remember that I’m not. Stupid kingfish.
But not all seafood was created equal. I find calamari to be one of those meats (can you call it a meat?) that has a subtle enough flavour for it to be delicious. And it’s usually fried. Enough said.
Nigella’s quick calamari with garlic mayonnaise is the perfect snack/meal/life partner. It’s warm, comforting, and doesn’t get annoyed with you when you have had too many wines and want to skip the small talk and just get down to business… the business of eating calamari.
When Nigella calls for groundnut oil, don’t worry that you might not be as fancy as she is, she means peanut oil. While you may not have this in your cupboard, it’s pretty cheap to pick up from the supermarket.
She says to put 250ml into a small saucepan and heat it up. I found I needed double that for my smallest saucepan. That was fine though, my peanut oil conveniently came in a 500ml bottle. I had my induction stove top on 8 (the hottest setting is 10) to get it really hot and smoking.
The next bit was really fun. I got scissors and cut the squid into slim rings, around 1.5cm thick. Before you do that though, make sure you remove the awful tubes that run down the length of the squid. They are easy to remove and look like straws and they are disgusting. Without knowing much about the anatomy of a squid, I guess it’s like cartilage or something. Horrible. Don’t let it put you off though, if you like to pick at things like I do, you’ll get a perverse sense of enjoyment extracting them from the slimy tentacles.
Once you have your rings, put them into a ziplock bag with the rest of the ingredients (minus the peanut oil) and give them a good shake.
Once the peanut oil is smoking, drop four of five calamari rings in with a pair of tongs. This is where it’s important that your oil is hot. If it’s not, your calamari will just drop to the bottom of the oil and sit there like a soggy chip. The oil should instantly bubble up and make a delightful hissing sound, just like at your local fish shop!
About 5-10 seconds later, remove the calamari with a frying sieve. Once the bubbling has died down, drop the calamari back in the oil for its second fry. This ensures the inside of the calamari is cooked without burning the outside. Fascinating. Once they are done, lift them out and drop them on a handy towel to soak up any extra oil.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Within 10 minutes, you’ll have a mountain of golden, crispy calamari just begging you to eat it. And you should. Immediately. With your garlic mayonnaise that you will make – either by mixing a crushed clove of garlic through your favourite store bought mayonnaise, or with your bare hands, just like I did, with a stick blender. You can check out how to make your own mayonnaise here. It doesn’t keep as long as regular mayonnaise, but who wants leftovers anyway?
The end result:
Along with the never-disappointing devils on horseback, this has become a dinner party staple. Nothing sets the tone for the evening like chowing down on little pieces of fish that have been deep fried in oil and dipped in oh so garlicky mayonnaise. I even keep fresh calamari in the freezer now, just in case I have surprise guests for dinner or Husband goes out for the night and doesn’t require feeding.