I can’t remember a time when I’ve enjoyed learning quite so much. I certainly didn’t listen as intently in chemistry lectures at uni, nor English classes back at school… Sadly my six-week cooking course at Little Portland Cooking School has come to an end. Those three hours every Tuesday night were fabulous. We covered meat and poultry, bread, fish and shellfish, cakes, sauces and pastry. It was a small class with only seven students, and our lovely teacher taught us as much as he could within the short time frame. I’m sure I’ve opened a can of worms as for every new skill I’ve picked up, my thirst for more is bigger than ever.
As one of my favourite classes was the fish and shellfish class, last weekend I embarked on a squid ink risotto. Having leant how to prepare squid in class, I was filled with enthusiasm for purchasing whole squids and spending the afternoon getting my hands dirty… It’s strangely therapeutic pulling out the slippery tentacles, removing the quill, detaching the wings, chopping out the guts and extracting the sac of black ink. Sounds gross, I know… But trust me, it’s fun!
I was left deflated when, after visiting three fishmongers, I could only find prepared squid. And squid ink in packets. Devastating. Nonetheless, I purchased the prepared squid and continued on my merry way…
As a general rule, there are two ways to cook squid. Either flash fry (literally for only a minute or so) or slow-cook for over an hour. Anything longer than a few minutes but less than an hour results in tough squid. This dish called for the slow-cooking technique and the results were sublime. The squid was tender and plump, with not a hint of chewiness. Having been cooked for 90 minutes in white wine, a multitude of herbs, tomato and squid ink there was an incredible depth of flavour. I was surprised how rich a seafood risotto could be. Not only does squid ink provide the wow-factor of turning the dish black, it gives a very unique taste which can best be described as salty/briny.
Recipe (adapted from Harry’s Bar Cookbook)
Squid cooked in squid ink:
675g cleaned squid
100mL olive oil
1 large piece of celery, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, chopped
4 big tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
400mL dry white wine
125g fresh herbs (basil, parsley, oregano and thyme)
Salt and pepper
3 sachets of squid ink (approximately 12g worth)
1 small onion, finely diced
300g Arborio rice
1.25L chicken stock, heated
Squid cooked in squid ink
45g unsalted butter
Splash of white wine
150g parmesan, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
Parsley to garnish
Squid cooked in squid ink:
Cut the squid into small pieces (2-3cm each). Set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the celery, onion and garlic and cook until golden (not brown).
Add the tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes.
Turn the heat to high and add the squid. Stir and cook evenly for a few minutes. Then add the wine and herbs and bring to the boil.
Add the squid ink, season with salt and pepper, and reduce the heat to low. Partially cover and cook for 90 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Cut 25g of the butter into small cubes and keep chilled in the fridge. In a large pan heat the remaining butter over medium heat. Once foaming, add the onion and cook until soft but not browned. Add the rice, stirring for a minute until lightly toasted. Add the white wine, stirring continuously.
Turn the heat to low and add one ladle of stock. Stir constantly. When the liquid has been absorbed, add another ladle of stock and the squid cooked in squid ink. Cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Then add another ladle of stock. Continue to add a ladle of stock each time the liquid has been absorbed. When the rice is soft but al dente, and the liquid has been absorbed, turn off the heat. Quickly stir the chilled butter into the rice. Then stir in 2/3 of the parmesan.
Season to taste. Sprinkle each bowl with the remaining parmesan and some chopped parsley.