Sunday, 8 March 2015

Filling-In for Dinner

Calamari Ripieni di Riso con Barba di Frate alla Menta & Limone
Rice-Stuffed Squid with Mint & Lemon Monks Beard


There's a first time for everything and this was the first time I have ever cooked a "full sized" squid (or at least the tube), let alone stuffed it with rice. But do you know what? It turned out to be so simple and good that it surely will not be the last!

At the same time, this was not the first time I have cooked "Monks Beard", those weird greens that are apparently so "in vogue" at the moment- but it WAS the first time that I actually enjoyed them! And I have Nina at the market hall to thank for that!


Both things are easy to prepare and both were flavored with other really simple ingredients- and although I do have an arsenal of herbs and spices at home and do love to dabble and get creative with them... I also love it when foods own flavors are the heroes of the day. Especially in Mediterranean dishes like this. The spices can wait until I cook something Oriental, Asian or Arabic... but tonight's supper was Italiano... Old School!


I needed just half of a bunch of monks beard- a handful more or less, 1 good-sized squid tube, 1 onion, 1 lemon, 7-8 cherry tomatoes, 1 cup of rice, fresh mint and parsley and some good olive oil.


Monks beard has a slightly salty and earthy flavor and I always found it difficult to prepare, but my friend Nina told me that she prepares it with onion, for a little sweetness, lemon to lift the flavor and mint to add freshness... Who knew? I didn't, for one! But now I do... And you do too!


Monks beard tends to be REALLY full of sand- so I recommend you cut the roots straight off before you even begin. Make sure it is well washed and rinse it 2-3 times. Chop the onion and half of the tomatoes into a fine dice, finely chop the zest of half of the lemon... and you are ready to go!


Fry half of the diced onion in a little olive oil until it just begins to turn golden brown and then add the rice, tomatoes, parsley and a little salt and pepper. Fry together for 1-2 minutes and then add enough boiling water to cover the rice.

Reduce the heat to a simmer and let the rice bubble away for 10 minutes.


After 10 minutes, all of the water will have been absorbed and the rice will be half cooked... perfect! Because now you can fill it into the squid- and it will of course continue to cook inside the squid and will have all of the good flavors already inside.

Spoon the rice into the squid tube and press it down firmly toward the end. Once it is full, simply seal with a tooth-pick. No fuss and no hassle.


Put the squid into a saucepan with a couple of inches of boiling water, add a little of the diced onion, the remaining cherry tomatoes, a few pieces of lemon and the parsley stalks. Add a sprinkle of salt, pop on the lid and simmer away for 30 minutes, turning it over at the half-way mark.

Don't worry that the squid is not fully submerged as the steam above will probably cook the squid and rice more quickly than what is below the surface.


For the monks beard, first fry the remaining diced onion until it becomes translucent and then add the greens... and no salt! Remember that they taste quite salty as they are!


After 2-3 minutes, the monks beard will have begun to soften, the onion will have begun to brown and you can now add a little lemon zest, pepper, a pinch of sugar and the juice of half of the lemon.


By now the squid will be ready and just looking forward to a quick toss in a little olive oil and a touch of pepper before serving.

If you are making a single portion like me and you have room- just pop it into the same frying pan- why not!?!

Also, if you are careful, whilst you are plating up the squid and the greens, you can carefully fish out the cherry tomatoes from the saucepan and add those to the frying pan too- that's what I did!

Served together, you have a simple and yet exquisite meal! And together with those juicy-sweet tomatoes, the combination of ingredients is so simple and typically Italian and good that I am sure you will love it!

As a finishing touch, take your sharpest knife and cut into the squid like I did- it looks impressive and also makes it much easier to cut into and enjoy... so enjoy!

This SHALL be made again! And again... and again!

No comments:

Post a Comment