Yumi Stynes is a TV and radio presenter. She’s just released her second book Zero F**ks Cooking, Endless Summer with a stack of easy meals for families.
This is another dish I consider part of our national repertoire, a common favourite that once was exotic and scary and now is as familiar and beloved as a snag on bread. Just like snags, this is a perfect quickie-meal to eat while still sandy from the beach and, like snags, squid is affordable and mainstream.
Nailing this recipe isn’t even a little bit diﬃcult. The thing to get right is the short cooking time. Prepare everything you are going to plate this with ﬁrst so you can concentrate on the frying, which is intense and needs to be lightning-fast.
Listen to Yumi on Kinderling Conversation:
Go-to Salt and Pepper Squid
Cooking time: 10 mins
Prep time: 10 mins
- 500 g squid (about three tubes or whole), cleaned
- 125g / 1 cup cornflour (cornstarch)
- 2 teaspoons ground white pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon chilli powder (eg. Aleppo pepper) or hot paprika
- 1 egg
- 750 ml / 3 cups vegetable oil
Crispy garnish (optional)
- 7 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 banana chillies, sliced into 3mm rings
- Lemon wedges
- Snipped leafy green herbs eg. coriander (cilantro), parsley or chives
- Cayenne pepper
- Dry the squid in the paper in which it was wrapped, then cut the squid tubes open and lay them flat. Use a razor blade or very sharp knife to score criss-crosses into the flesh, then cut the squid into slightly larger than bite-sized pieces. If your squid comes with tentacles (see Tip), cut them into manageable pieces.
- Sift the flour, pepper, salt and chilli powder into a bowl and mix together. Crack the egg into a separate bowl and whisk with a fork.
- Toss the squid pieces first into the beaten egg, then shake them off before tossing them through the flour mixture to coat thoroughly.
- Heat the oil in a wok or a large heavy-based saucepan until the surface is shimmering but not smoking. Have clean metal tongs and a plate with a double-layer of paper towel standing by.
- Fry the squid for two minutes in four or five batches. It’s cooked when it is slightly coloured and feels pleasantly hard between your tongs. (The longer you cook the squid, the chewier it will be, but the crunchier the coating will be – you’re looking for a sweet spot somewhere in the middle.) Scoop it out with a slotted spoon and drain it on the paper towel-lined plate. Keep warm in a low oven.
- If making the crispy garnish, turn the heat down and add the garlic and chilli to the hot oil. Be prepared for a cloud of stink to erupt out of the pan; give it one to two minutes and keep an eye on it – you want it to cook, but not to colour past golden. Scoop the mix out the moment it’s done, drain on paper towel, then gently tip over the squid.
- To serve, pile the squid onto a serving platter, scatter over some snipped green herbs and serve with fat wedges of lemon for squeezing and a shake of cayenne pepper if you like things spicy.
Tip: Which squid?
Squid or 'calamari' tubes are sold cleaned and ready to go – you just have to cut them to size. However, you’ll miss out on the tentacles, which the kids (and I) love. When you can be bothered, go whole squid. Your fishmonger will clean it for you but there might be a little extra work needed at home to remove the skin, along with any stray bits of cartilage.
This is an edited extract from Zero F*cks Cooking: Endless Summer by Yumi Stynes published by Hardie Grant Books RRP $39.99 and is available in stores nationally.
Photographer: © Chris Chen
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