|Plate by David Walters|
I think it's such a pity that my kids, and my husband, are so wary about seafood. Sure, they will eat battered, deep-fried linefish and calamari, and they tolerate - at a push - tinned tuna in a salad, or in a cheesy pasta sauce. But if I present a fat fillet of spanking-fresh ocean fish, grilled and dressed with lemon juice and olive oil, there is a sullen mutiny at the dinner table.
But I'm determined to convert them, especially now that we are living ten minutes away from Hout Bay's beautiful fishing harbour. When I have a yearning for seafood (every second day or so), I visit all three of the fish shops located in the harbour, and spend a happy hour poring over the day's catch. Most days, there's something fresh, flappy and shiny-eyed lying on a bed of crushed ice, but if the weather's bad, and the fish on on display looks like yesterday's goods, I'll grab a slab of something from the freezer.
I feel no shame at all in buying good-quality frozen seafood - including calamari, prawns and mussels - and I'm heartily sick of reading diatribes by food writers who claim that frozen shellfish (or frozen anything, for that matter) is disgusting, mushy and akin to dog food. Of course I'd rather have a fresh crayfish plucked from the ocean floor than one that's been ossifying in the deep-freeze for a month, but I reject, with a sniff, the idea that all frozen seafood isn't worth eating.
Now that I've got that off my chest: for this recipe, you will need small tubes and tentacles of calamari, which you will find fresh in selected branches of Woolworths, and frozen at good fish shops. I bought this batch from Mariner's Wharf, and it was as tender and sweet as a baby's bottom. The trick with calamari is not to overcook it: be warned, it turns from butter-soft rings to chewy elastic bands in a matter of minutes, so do set a timer - or watch the clock - while you cook it. If you can't find fresh calamari, use frozen Patagonian tubes.
This recipe is easily doubled.
Calamari Salad with Thyme, Lemon, Chilli and Olives
500 g small calamari tubes and tentacles, thawed and cleaned
1 tsp (5 ml) salt
12 calamata olives, pitted and halved
1 t (5ml) fresh paprika
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
5 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped from stalks
a small red chilli, deseeded and very finely diced
200 ml fruity olive oil
the finely grated zest of a lemon
the juice of two lemons
salt and milled black pepper
a handful of chopped fresh parsley
Rinse the calamari under cold water. Slice the tubes into slender rings. Fill a large pot with water, add the salt and bring to a rolling ball. Throw in all the calamari rings and cook for exactly one minute. Fish the rings out, using a slotted spoon, and place in a colander to drain. Now do the same with the tentacles, but cook them for a minute and a half. Drain. Place the calamari in a dish and add all the remaining ingredients, except for the parsley. Toss well, and place in the fridge for at least three hours for the flavours to mingle. Add the chopped parsley just before serving. Serve with brown bread and butter.
Serves 4 as a starter. Print Friendly