Recipe: Charred squid with a new take on Greek salad

Charred squid with greek salad

Well how about that then? The birthplace of moussaka and mythology has managed to avoid its own ‘Grexit’ (what a horrid term?) and remains, for now, part of the Eurozone. But while I’m hardly an expert in the intricacies of the relationship between the IMF, Brussels, Angela Merkel and our Hellenic friends, I feel like this dish is a suitable way of celebrating the agreement, even if it may be a tad premature to pop the corks just yet.

The brightness and vibrancy of the salad is just the sort of thing that feels indulgent because of the feta but is ultimately a fresh bowl of exciting healthiness. The almonds and courgette are my twists on this classic, the latter replacing the watery old cucumber. Alongside tzatziki and a charred marinated squid (don’t be daunted, they’re a delicious and straightforward species to cook, although any seafood would go brilliantly) and you could almost be sitting in a beachside taverna in a quite Grecian fishing village, assuming you remembered your cash.

Serves 4 easily

Squid, one whole cleaned with tentacles
Feta, one block
Olives, one large handful
Tomatoes on the vine, three big ripe handfuls
Courgettes, two large
Red onion, one
Rocket, one large handful
Mint, one bunch
Dill, small bunch
Flaked almonds, one large handful
Olive oil, three tablespoons
Lemons, three
Thyme, small bunch, leaves picked
Garlic, three cloves
Red chilli, one small

Put a large griddle pan on the highest heat your hob will go – you want it smoking – and a small frying pan on a similarly fierce flame.

Glug two of the tablespoons of olive oil into a large flat dish and squeeze two of the lemons into it. Crush the garlic in and then add the thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Stir until thoroughly emulsified. Get out your squid. Hopefully the fishmonger has cleaned it for you (ask and they shall oblige) and you can crack on. Pat it dry with kitchen towel inside and out and slip it in your marinade, coating it thoroughly. You can do with ahead of time if you like, but not too far ahead as the squid will ‘cook’ in the acid of the lemon juice. An hour is plenty.

Meanwhile get a big bowl (the sort of one your mum used to cut your hair around). Chunk up the tomatoes any way you see fit, break up the feta and chuck in the olives, squishing a few up as you go. Finely slice the red onion and sprinkle that in, separating the layers as much as you can. Don’t be too precious though – this always looks a bit more exciting when a little more slapdash. Add the rocket, three-quarters of the mint and all the dill.

This is where I start messing with the centuries-old formula because I think I know best and, well, why not? Slice the courgettes longways about half a centimetre thick and lay in the griddle pan to char. You may feel they need a little oil but I find with the pan glowing red-hot it’s fine. Turn after a minute to ninety seconds or when you see the lovely char marks. Do the same the other side and then place in the bowl with the salad.

Toast the almonds in the other pan until golden and crisp – careful though as these fellas burn quicker than you can say, “Oh FFS, I’m just got to run out to Tesco Metro!” They’re now ready to join the rest of the salad. If you can be bothered, I like to push some of them into the tomatoes so you guarantee a soft and crunchy mouthful but I totally appreciate if ain’t nobody got time for that.

By now you’ve probably got the extractor on and all the windows in the house open, a sure sign the griddle pan is hot enough for the squid. Carefully lay it in whole. I prefer serving it this way as it seems more luxurious and divorced from battered calamari but if you’re more inclined to slice it, keep each piece a decent size which will mean it’s harder to overcook them. Gently slide the squid into the pan, arranging the tentacles around the body. Do not poke or move it for three minutes. The smell in the kitchen should start to evoke a meal in an olive grove in Crete with a glass of cold local, and therefore jolly if a tad rough, wine. Or something.

Turn all the squid and cook for a further four minutes on the other side. My squid was a bit of a beast so I ended up cooking mine for a little longer but this cooking time is right for the smaller ones supermarkets tend to have.

While that’s coming along nicely thankyouverymuch, back to the salad; glug over the rest of the oil and the remaining lemon’s juice, salt and pepper and give it a good old toss (ooo er missus). Don’t worry if the feta breaks up a bit more or bits get squashed – the juices and crumbs all add to the effect and flavour.

Sizzling and spitting, remove the squid and put it on a pretentious board like I have here or, I don’t know, a plate. Sprinkle with the red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped, and the rest of the mint. If you fancy it, deglaze the pan with water or white wine and reduce to a rich sauce but it’s definitely not necessary.

Take it all to the table with some tzatziki, put your entire face in it and wonder just how many power suits Angela Merkel owns.

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