Squid is the only fish I know how to catch or clean, and on our annual beach holiday I go squidding each day. Fresh squid is deliciously tender and sweet, and over the course of two weeks it gets cooked lots of different ways.
Simple deep frying with a dusting of breadcrumbs and light salt & pepper seasoning is my favourite.
First – catch your squid:
I have a small kayak and hand line. Paddling around the bay in the calm of the early morning and catching the evening meal is a rare privilege.
I clean the squid out on the kayak, just pulling the skin off the tubes and flaps, and keeping the tentacles as well.
For this method the tubes are best; I slit them down the middle and cut those cute little criss-cross patterns on them that make them roll up when cooked. Then they are cut into strips big enough so they won’t slip out of my frying basket.
After that it’s just a matter of dusting them with breadcrumbs and a bit of salt and pepper. Not too much though, as the fresh squid has a delightful sweet subtlety to it that it’s important not to overpower. In a home kitchen it might be tempting to try something more fancy, but down at the beach I’m happy to keep things very simple.
I have a little basket that sits in a pan for deep frying over the wok-burner of the gas barbeque. I cook only a single serve at a time, as that’s all my basket will handle without overcrowding. I time the cooking at 30 seconds on my watch, drain and serve immediately with lemon wedges, salad, and perhaps a glass of white wine.
I’ve never considered charcoal ideal for prawns. I like to use charcoal for a slow heat, and prawns need a quick flash of intense heat so they won’t dry out. Charcoal works better than expected, because it’s a moist heat (H2O vapour as a by-product of combustion) but it’s marginal.
The prawns above were big ones – the biggest I could find, marinaded with a bit of chilli sauce. They needed to be cooked for three or four minutes. They tasted very good and were not dry inside, but they would have been better in a wok or hotplate.
See? Cooked above in a wok – still with chilli sauce, but this time with a chopped red onion as well. In this case I’ve used just the meat, not the cutlets (as they’re called – the bits with tails attached) Technically still charcoal, because I used charcoal in a Cobb oven to heat the wok, but gas would given the same result with better control.
Very nice just with a bit of crusty bread. A good way to serve them at a party is on a plate with small skewers (large toothpicks) supplied, so people can stab and eat at will.
Not content to give up, I tried another way this year. The prawns were not quite as big as the largest ones above, but still a good size. I marinated in a little sweet chilli and garlic, and skewered them up.
I like sweet chilli because the sugar burns and adds and gives that nice bit of blackness. I moved the charcoal up as close as I could to the grill, and cooked quickly. It was still slower than a hotplate, but it worked well.
I cooked 1 kg in three batches, passing out the skewers on a plate as an appetiser, and re-stocking the plate as the next batch was done. They were a success; better than I anticipated and very well received by the guests.