Calamari tends to get a bad rap for being tough and chewy. This owes more to poor handling than anything else. When bought fresh (never buy pre-sliced rings), and properly cooked, the flesh is meltingly soft with a delicate sweetness. Try to buy whole hoods and clean them yourself as the quality is almost always better. And don’t throw away the tentacles, they’ll go great in the stuffing. Finely slice and cook in a little olive for 1–2 minutes before mixing with the prepared couscous.
- 2 tbsp slivered or blanched almonds, lightly toasted
- 285 g jar fire roasted piquillo peppers (see Note), drained well
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp chopped parsley
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- salt and black pepper
- juice and finely grated rind of 1 lemon
- ¼ cup wholemeal couscous
- 1 tbsp capers, chopped
- 2 medium calamari hoods, cleaned
- steamed green beans or a green salad, to serve
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.
To make the romesco sauce, place the almonds in a small food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the piquillo peppers, garlic, olive oil and half each of the parsley and paprika. Season to taste and process until smooth. Stir through enough lemon juice to balance the flavour, about 3–4 teaspoons. Transfer the mixture to a small saucepan, place over a low heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning adding more lemon juice to taste.
Meanwhile, place the couscous in a small bowl and pour over 60 ml (¼ cup) boiling water. Stir with a fork for 20 seconds then cover and set aside for 5 minutes. Use a fork to loosen the grains then mix in the remaining parsley and paprika, capers, 2 tablespoons romesco sauce, lemon rind and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice. Season well then fill each calamari with the couscous and secure the end with a toothpick.
Preheat an oven grill or chargrill pan over high heat. Brush the calamari with olive oil and season to taste. Cook for 2–3 minutes on each side until golden and tender.
Spoon the sauce onto two plates, thickly slice the calamari and arrange on top. Serve with green beans.
• Piquillo peppers are small, sweet Spanish capsicums sold in jars in most supermarkets. If unavailable substitute 200 g roasted red capsicums.
Photography by Sharyn Cairns. Styling by Lee Blaylock. Food preparation by Peta Gray. Creative concept by Lou Fay.