My favourite squid dish in the world has got to be The River Cafe's. I am very happy to say, that I found it, still on their menu, 18 years since I last cooked it there. Simply scored on the inside and then char-grilled until it curls inside-out into a beautiful spiral and served with lots of chopped fresh red chilli and fantastic Tuscan extra virgin olive oil. A wedge of lemon, a garnish of rocket, that is it. It does not get better than that.
But I am on a tapas mission. It started with a challenge* and it got me thinking, just what is my favourite tapas? Patatas Bravas rated highly but I have a real problem with this dish. My memories of the Patatas Bravas, that I so distinctly remember eating in the bars of Spain as teenager, DID NOT HAVE TOMATO SAUCE ON THEM. Instead they where highly spiced cubes of crispy fried potato. NO SAUCE! Judging on the research I have done, I can only assume that my experience was not the same as most. In fact the only person I can find who agrees with me, is my old friend Allegra McEverdy in her book "The Good Cook". I made some the other night, crisp fried cubes of potato heavily spiced with smoky paprika, cayenne pepper and a touch of cumin. Just a drissle of garlic mayonnaise. They were delicious. But, since there was NO TOMATO SAUCE, I will give my recipe for that a miss.
Apart from Patatas Bravas my favourite tapas would be just, quite simply a delicious slice of Parma Ham, a cube of aged Manchago, some salted almonds or some fantastic Spanish olives. Not much cooking there, just great ingredients! But then I remembered eating deep-fried squid, Calamari Fritos, with a really garlicky mayonnaise, sometime in my distant youth, somewhere around San Sabastian, a very long time ago. Not battered like they do in Greece. Just lightly floured, supper crunchy, dunked in a kicking Allioli and a good squeeze of lemon. Washed down with a San Miguel. Pretty damn good.
Calamari Fritos con Allioli (Crisp Deep-fried Squid with Garlic Mayonnaise) You can buy ready cleaned tubes of frozen squid really cheaply nowadays from all good Asian supermarkets. Often they are even cut into rings for you already but I prefer to do this myself.
½ tsp salt 500g/1lb 2oz squid, cut into 5mm/¼in rings
Place enough oil in a wok, large saucepan or deep-fat fryer to come halfway up the pan. Place over a medium heat. If you're using a deep-fat fryer or have a thermometer, heat the oil to 180C/350F. If not, to check the oil is at the right temperature, drop a 2-3cm/¾-1¼in cube of bread into the hot oil. It should become golden and crispy in 1 minute.
While the oil is heating, place the flour, cayenne, paprika and salt in a large sandwich bag. Drop in the squid and shake around to coat evenly. This may need to be done in two batches, depending on the size of the bag.
Carefully drop the squid into the hot oil. Fry for 2-3 minutes until golden. Remove from the oil and briefly drain on kitchen paper before serving with the garlic mayonnaise.
Aioli, Allioli or Garlic Mayonnaise All pretty much the same, but you might like to use a fruity Spanish olive oil for the Allioli as opposed to a peppery Italian one for the Aioli. English Mayonnaise is traditionally made with vegetable or sunflower oil and English mustard!
300ml Olive oil / sunflower oil, or a blend of the two 2 large egg yolks
1tsp Mustard (Dijon is my favourite) Juice of half a lemon 3 fat cloves garlic Thoroughly mash the garlic and a little salt into a paste. I use the side of my knife or you could use a pestle and mortar. Pour the oils into a jug. Put the egg yolks in a small bowl with the mustard and a pinch of salt. Whisk well until thoroughly blended. Add the oil very slowly, to the egg mixture, whisking well after each addition. When all the oil has been incorporated, check seasoning and add lemon juice to taste.