Fresh fish at a fish market in Majorca.

03-08-2012©Copyrights_Peter_Buitelaar

I’m really excited about the forthcoming release of my new cookery book Modern Mediterranean: Sun-drenched recipes from Mallorca & beyond.

In the book, I’ve tried to take you take you on a tour of the bountiful produce of the Mediterranean and show you how to harness its flavours in new and exciting ways. In recent years these remarkable ingredients have been utilised by the region’s best chefs to create a cuisine that builds on the history and traditions entrenched in the areas food and reinterpreting them into something new.

My book is organised into 18 chapters by key ingredient; covering everything from tomatoes, garlic, almonds and olive oil to octopus, chorizo, saffron and truffles, the book is a love letter to the Mediterranean and its food. The recipes include new twists on classic dishes, such as Yellow Gazpacho with Smoked Salmon and Avocado or Saffron, Raspberry and Orange Blossom Crème Catalan, as well as less familiar fare, including Herb-roasted Guinea fowl with Couscous Salad and Sobrasada and Honey Croquettes with Almond Aioli. I’ve also included many traditional recipes from Majorca such as Arroz brut, Escaldums, and frito Mallorquin.

Each chapter opens with a fascinating introduction explaining the history and provenance of each ingredient, with information on key suppliers and when each ingredient is at its best. One of those amazing ingredients is fresh squid. Every time I pick up a squid I can’t help thinking that something so ugly couldn’t possibly taste so good. But looks can often be deceiving and these creepy-looking cephalopods are utterly delicious when cooked in the right way.

I think some people are put off buying fresh squid because they think they are difficult to prepare but preparing fresh squid or cuttlefish is really a simple process and, once you’ve done it a couple of times, it becomes child play. Pull the head and tentacles away from the body, then skin the body and pull out the plastic-looking backbone cartilage. Cut the tentacles from the head just above the eye, then wash both the body and tentacles thoroughly in cold running water.

For me, nothing beats super-fresh whole squid grilled over a fierce flame and sprinkled with garlic, parsley, olive oil and sea salt. The tentacle adventure needn’t be all that scary – just remember that there is one basic rule when cooking with any type of cephalopod: they either need to be cooked quickly for a very short time, or slowly for a very long time; anything in between and you end up with something rather tough and unpleasant.

When visiting the local fish market here in Majorca, you should look out for Calamar de Potera, which means the squid are line-caught and therefore of a much higher quality. Obviously they are a little more expensive, but they are well worth it. Hand fishing with hook and line is painstaking and requires much patience, but the quality of the squid is substantially better than that of net-caught squid. A net-caught squid will have been bashed and crushed and will have sand inside its skin and body. You have to wash net-caught squid thoroughly and completely remove the skin, which takes away both flavour and colour.

This week’s recipes are from the new book. Copies are available at our restaurant and can also be ordered through Amazon.

Grilled Squid with Chickpea & Piquillo pepper salad “Tap de corti” & preserved lemons

I’m using a local paprika from Majorca called tap de corti but you can substitute this with any type of sweet or slightly smoked paprika for this recipe. Chickpeas, piquillo peppers and preserved lemons are a great combination and work so well with the fresh squid, mint and chillies. Delicious and a real crowd pleaser!

INGREDIENTS
Serves 4
· 4 medium-sized whole squid, cleaned
· 1 red chilli, finely chopped
· 8 mint leaves, chopped


SALAD
· 10 Piquillo Peppers from the jar, sliced
· 200g cooked chickpeas
· 2 tbsp chopped mint
· 2 tbsp capers, rinsed
· 1 tsp preserved lemon, finely chopped
· 2 cloves of garlic, minced
· 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
· Juice of one lemon
· A good pinch of “Tap de corti” (paprika from Majorca)
· Sea salt to taste

Method

Mix the Piquillo peppers in a large bowl together with the chickpeas, mint and the capers. Add the rest of the ingredients and serve immediately, or refrigerate for a few hours to get all the flavours to mingle. With a sharp knife, slice the squids as if you were going to chop them into rings to score the surface. Take care to not cut all the way through.

Heat your grill plate or frying pan until very hot. Season the squids and place them in the hot pan with a drizzle of olive oil. After 30 seconds the squids should be slightly caramelised. Turn them over and add another drizzle of olive oil, chopped chillies and the mint leaves. Cook for 1 minute and remove them from the pan. Serve with the chickpea & piquillo pepper salad.

CUTTLEFISH “PICA-PICA”

A simple & delicious cuttlefish recipe from Majorca. You could also substitute the cuttlefish for fresh squid.

INGREDIENTS
Serves 4
· 600g cleaned cuttlefish, cut into small dice
· 2 Spanish onions, finely chopped
· 200g fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped
· 2 garlic cloves, crushed
· 2 tbsp tomato puree
· 20ml olive oil
· 30ml dry white wine
· 1 small red chilli, finely chopped
· 2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
· Seasoning

Method

Heat the olive oil over a gentle heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the chopped onions and sweat without colour until they start to soften. Add the diced cuttlefish, crushed garlic, chilli and pour over the white wine. Cook for 3-4 minutes until all wine has evaporated and add the tomato puree and chopped tomatoes. Season to taste. Cook over a gentle flame for about 20-30 minutes until tender. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve immediately.