SQUID AND TOMATO STEW
In My Kitchen
by Annie Bell
Squid makes a sublimely rich and meltingly tender stew, so it can only be its grisly looks that discourage us from eating more of it. There is no making fake claims that this is quick to prepare, but in its favor it can be made in advance, and served hot or at room temperature. It can also be spooned over rice as a main course, in which case it does for about four.
• 2 1/4 lb squid (as long as your hand)
• a pinch of saffron filaments (approximately 20)
• 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus a little extra
• 1 Spanish onion, peeled, quartered and thinly sliced
• 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with a rolling pin or the handle of a knife
• 2 beefsteak tomatoes, skinned and coarsely chopped
• 1 small dried red chili, finely chopped
• sea salt
• 1 bay leaf
• 4 tbsp brandy
• 1/2 cup white wine
• coarsely chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley to serve
To prepare the squid, firmly tug the head away from the body to separate the two. Remove the hard transparent "pen" from the body, and the thin porphyry-colored film that covers it. Slit the pouch open and wash both sides, removing any remaining white membranes. Slice the open pouches and halve if the slices are long. Cut the tentacles from the head above the eyes, and halve if large.
Pour a tablespoon of boiling water over the saffron filaments in a small bowl and leave them to infuse.
Heat 3 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add the onion and garlic, and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes until soft but not colored, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes, the chili, and a little salt and saute, pressing the tomatoes down with a wooden spoon until the juices evaporate.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat, add the squid, some salt, and the bay leaf, and stir constantly until the squid has thrown off its liquid and is seething. Add the brandy and flambe it if you are brave. The easiest way to do this is to pour in all but a little of the spirit, warm this in a metal spoon over a flame and, as soon as it ignites, pour it into the pan and the rest will flare up. But this isn't essential.
Add the wine, bring to a boil, and simmer for a few minutes to reduce it, then add the sauteed vegetables. Bring back to a boil and simmer uncovered over low heat for about 50 minutes, stirring regularly until the squid is tender and coated in a thick sauce. Add the saffron liquid about 10 minutes before the end. Transfer to a bowl, drizzle over a little more oil, and scatter with chopped cilantro or parsley.