Calamari casserole with tomatoes, wine and herbs. Is there anything more redolent of summer fare au bord de la Mediterranee’ than this?
An impulse buy of glisteningly fresh calamari at my local fish shop and 40 minutes cooking made a simple supper with a suprising depth of flavour given the recipe’s sparse ingredients. As you can see from the colour palette of my photos, I can’t wait for summer real; Easter in Malta has seen a chill wind blowing despite the sun.
This recipe comes from a tome of Mediterranean cuisine called ‘The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook’, by Nancy Harmon-Jenkins. My husband’s cousin gave it to me years ago just after we moved to Malta. The book has no pictures, just a wealth of amazing and simple recipes from right across the Mediterranean from Lebanon to Portugal, and drawing on every culture. It does just what it says on the tin by providing ‘a delicious alternative for lifelong health’. I should be delving into its pages every day really to ensure that lifelong part of the subtitle applies to me and mine. I have neglected this book for far too long but now, with summer in the air (on the sunny side of the street at least), I am determined to work my way through a good many more of its inspirational, healthy recipes.
If you can’t get calamari or squid, this standard Mediterranean casserole is ideal with almost any white steak fish (oily won’t work). You needn’t fry the white fish; just add to the casserole around 10 minutes after the potatoes and simmer gently. Ensure you have a plentiful basked of rustic, crusty bread on the table so you can enjoy mopping up every last moment of the sauce.
It’s a recipe from the Isles of Capri, but versions of this are common anywhere in the Mediterranean. Hence my taking liberties with the backdrop of a gawdy touristy apron with its Maltese crosses, fishing boats and octopus tentacles! It was 1.00 Euro from a Sliema seafront stall and included a fishy recipe on its front!
All images © Liz Ayling 2014
- 10-12 small calamari or squid (around 1kg), cleanedprint button transparent
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and diced
- 2 fresh chillis
- sprigs of fresh bay leaves
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- 1 large wine glass dry white wine
- sea salt
- 1 x 400g tin of peeled plum tomatoes
- 8 medium potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped (not diced small though)
- zest and juice of two lemons
- fresh-ground black pepper to season
- Clean and gut the calamari or ask your fishmonger to do this. Rinse them, pat dry and slice the bodies into rings and chop the tentacles in shorter lengths. Marinade in the zest and juice of one lemon along with a sprig of bay and the chilli, whole but scored. Keep covered in the fridge.
- When ready to cook, drain the calamari from the marinade, which can you now discard. Then, heat the olive oil in a heavy-based casserole over a medium heat. Add the garlic cloves and chilli (having de-seeded and diced them). Saute’ for around 2 minutes until they soften a little.
- Now, add the calamari and fry, tossing occasionally, until they curl up a bit and give off liquid. Add the white wine and a pinch of sea salt and turn up the heat a little to evaporate off the alcohol.
- Add the tomatoes and potatoes; bring to the boil then reduce to a slow simmer and cook the casserole for around 40 minutes, or until the potatoes and calamari are tender. The potatoes, if using waxy ones, should remain in tact.
- Right before serving, add the juice and zest of the second lemon. You can sprinkle with parsley and/or garnish with more fresh bay. Adjust seasoning to taste and serve in wide soup dishes along with plenty of crusty bread.