Throughout my career I’ve heard so many old wives’ tales about cooking. I’ve been told to add oil to pasta water so the pasta won’t stick. I’ve been told to add kiwi pulp to calamari to make it tender. All nonsense. All you need to remember is to buy fresh and in season and your calamari will be super-tender. The crispy vine leaves are not essential, but they are a great way to introduce saltiness to the dish.
- ¼ small watermelon
- vegetable oil, for deep-frying
- 50 g vine leaves in brine
- ⅓ cup (50 g) plain flour
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra to garnish
- 500 g calamari, cleaned, scored and cut into bite-sized pieces, tentacles reserved
- salt flakes and cracked pepper
- 200 g green olives
- 200 g goat’s curd, broken into small pieces
- flat-leaf parsley, to garnish
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Trim the skin from the watermelon and cut the flesh into thick rectangles about 15 cm × 5 cm. Store in the fridge until needed.
Heat the oil for deep-frying in a deep-fryer to 180°C (or in a heavy-based saucepan until a cube of bread browns in 15 seconds). Remove the vine leaves from the brine and pat dry with paper towel. Dust with flour, shaking off any excess, then deep-fry until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.
Meanwhile, heat a chargrill pan or barbecue grill or flatplate until hot. Drizzle the olive oil over the calamari and season with salt and pepper. Grill the calamari until lightly charred and the flesh has no transparency.
Arrange the watermelon, olives and goat’s curd on a serving plate. Put the calamari and crisp vine leaves on top and finish with parsley leaves, a drizzle of olive oil and a final grinding of salt and pepper.
Recipe from Greek, by George Calombaris, with photography by Earl Carter (Lantern, $59.99, hbk).
View our Readable feasts review and more recipes from the book here.