Thursday, 23 June 2011

Fishing for Compliments

Seppie alla Griglia con Zucchine & Fagiolini
Grilled Cuttlefish with Zucchini & Beans

I can't claim to be a big lover of fish, but I do confess that I fell deeply, madly and truly in love with cuttlefish whilst on vacation in the South of France a couple of years ago. Seche á la Plancha was my favorite dish that Summer- frazzled and crispy in a red hot pan, with garlic, peppers and lemon juice, it was biteful and delicious in the extreme. Apart from a few exceptions, such as monkfish or mahi-mahi, the only seafood I really like are shrimps, scallops, squid and octopus... we all have our preferences I suppose! So I decided to plunge into the deep tonight- and down where it was darkest of all I discovered this buried treasure in my freezer...

I would love to tell you that I scored my cuttlefish with that decorative pattern, that also goes to make it more tender, lets it get crisper and also traps the flavors better when you grill it... but I didn't. My local Thai supermarket sells it that way- and it really is nicer in my opinion. I once tried doing it myself but found it almost impossible to slice into the fish without cutting all the way through it. This is about as close as I come to buying convenience food though! 
The rest we can manage by ourselves, right? Right on!

The one thing we fear when ordering, or attempting to cook cuttlefish or squid, is that it is going to end up being like a seasoned chunk of inner-tube from our bicycle wheels. Sadly this happens all to often! My secret is simple and fail-safe. Are you ready for it? All you need to do is to place your fish into a bowl, pour boiling water over it and let it sit there until the water is cool. That it. The fish is now par-boiled and has lost its slippery texture. The pores are slightly opened and will soak-in any seasoning we add much better as well. It's good news all around! Just make sure to wring it out and for it to be relatively dry before grilling it- we don't want it to stew in its juices- we want it to get nice and crisp on the outside and to be pleasantly chewy on the inside. 

So let's do just that...

The only prep-work I had with this meal really, was preparing another one of my seasoned salts. This time I ground a mix of salt, sugar, lime zest, 5-spice powder, star anise, szechwan pepper, finely-chopped celery leaf and chili flakes, in my mortar and pestle. Can't you almost smell that already? Oh man! You will when you try it yourself- and you will love the combination!

So now we are ready to cook! Heat your grill pan up to a really high heat and add some finely chopped bacon. As soon as it starts to sizzle, add the cuttlefish and a few slices of garlic. Make sure that everything gets mixed together well, but don't stir it around too much just yet- let it have a chance to get nice and brown. Season with a little of the salt mix and a tiny splash of sesame oil. Now that the spices have been added, keep it moving and give it a good squeeze of lime juice.

And I am almost sad to say that after 3-4 minutes at the most, your cuttlefish is going to be ready- crispy and delicious, with smokey and crunchy bacon bits for that extra bit of zing!

I served mine on a bed of grilled zucchini, with a few young beans, spring onions and cherry tomatoes- but you may prefer to serve it with rice or a salad or pasta- whichever way you decide to enjoy it, you are going to love the rich and intense flavor! Especially when you sprinkle everything with a generous amount of the aromatic salt-mix, a little more sesame oil and a last squeeze of lime. This is a perfect, light, tasty and easy meal that will indeed get you those compliments without you having to go fishing too deeply for them! Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!



  1. Der Tipp mit dem kochenden Wasser muss ich mal ausprobieren. Bin gespannt!

  2. Bei mir hat es 1-A funktioniert! War nur ne "Schnappsidee" aber ich war begeistert- Ich hoffe es war kein "one-hit-wonder" und tut's für Dich auch! Gruss aus Frankfurt, Francesco