Dear Chef Marc,
I would like to have some ideas on cooking squid, limpia, calamares, pulposa etc. I see these intriguing sea creatures piled high in the supermarkets but I am at a loss how to turn them into delicious meals. Your advice would be greatly appreciated.

Betty Davies, Nottingham and Camp de Mar. (e-mail)

There are some fantastic Spanish recipes for Calamar (squid), Sepia (Cuttle-fish) and the humble Pulpo (Octopus) and in the next few weeks I will try to feature some of them. These intriguing creatures are all members of the “cephalopod family” and in the Mediterranean squid and cuttlefish are often fished at night with lights, as they are surface swimmers, almost transparent and invisible although when touched can rapidly change color from blue to brown. When cooking these creatures one basic rule applies, they should be cooked very slowly over a gentle flame for a long time or, as I prefer, very quickly over a fierce heat for a very short time. For me, the most satisfying way to eat Squid and Cuttle-fish is to pan fry or grill them whole very quickly in good olive oil, with parsley and garlic. Sprinkle them with sea salt and serve with rocket leaves and lemon. Take care not to over cook them as they do require very little cooking time. The ink sacks are wonderful in rice dishes and also can be used to color and flavour sauces in the slow cooking type dishes such as chipirones en su tinta. Pulpo is best boiled for about 30-40 minutes, sliced while still warm and piled on to a large plate, pour over loads of good olive oil, sprinkle with paprika and sea salt and you've cooked yourself Pulpo a la Gallega (Galician style octopus). So be brave, invite a few friends around and give it a go.

A welcome shift

We are making progress” said Peter Caruana, Gibraltar's Chief Minister, after talks in London with Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, and Peter Hain, Minister for Europe.

Even that non–committal statement, coming as it did on Friday from a source that has consistently been negative about changes in Gibraltar's status, gives cause for hope. Of course, Spain was not present at these London meetings – the next round of talks between Mr Straw and his Spanish opposite number, Josep Picque, are due to take place in London early next month – but Mr Straw must know Spain's mind on the key issues and will not have encouraged Mr Caruana to ask for concessions that it would be impossible for Spain to consider.

The Gibraltar minister said that he would be ready to consider sitting at the table with Mr Straw and Sr Picque if two conditions were met: first, that the British government gives an assurance that any proposal on the future of Gibraltar would be withdrawn if it were rejected by the people of Gibraltar in the referendum to which Britain is committed; second, that Gibraltar should have an equal voice at the talks and not be present simply as an observer.

If nothing else, these conditions indicate a degree of flexibility in Mr Caruana's position which has not been seen before and is certainly to be welcomed. In considering his wish to be an equal partner in the discussions Spain should bear in mind that a referendum recommendation on changes in Gibraltar's status would have a much better chance of being accepted by Gibraltarians if their Chief Minister had been a party to its formulation.

Ray Fleming

Jubilee facts

Buckingham Palace has just issued what it calls 50 Facts about the Reign of Elizabeth II. It is not entirely clear what is the pupose of this document and it is hard to think that it will have much effect on the lacklustre response thus far of the public to this year's Golden Jubilee celebrations. While it is fascinating to learn that “Tony Blair is the first Prime Minister to have been born during the Queen's reign” and that “The Queen was given a canary after her State Visit to Germany in 1965”, one must beg leave to doubt that such tit–bits will galvanise an apparently apathetic British people into rounds of street parties and other manifestations of their loyalty.

Although these Facts are impressive in their revelation of the scale and spread of the Queen's duties and interests, they are also curiously selective.
They tell us, for instance, that she has attended 31 Royal Variety performances – proof indeed of her dedication to duty – but they say nothing about how many Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings she has attended. Indeed the Commonwealth is included in the list simply as a place she visits – no reference is made to her position as Head of the Commonwealth, a role to which it is believed she attaches great importance. It certainly should have had a place alongside the information that she has given 75'000 Christmas puddings to her staff.



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