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Food: Get squids in with easy dish.

Byline: Michael Kilkie

I am a huge fan of Chinese food and today's recipe for salt and chilli squid is one of my favourite Oriental-style dishes. It's so easy to make.

Probably the most famous squid dish is calamares alaromana - the deep-fried squid you get in most tapas restaurants both in Spain and in this country.

Or perhaps you've come across it in Italy where it's known as calamari frito.

Both dishes are generally served with some sort of dipping sauce. In Spain it's normally garlic mayo, known as aioli, and in Italy it's usually a spicy tomato sauce or salsa.

All three of the squid dishes I've mentioned are cooked quickly in hot oil. This takes only 1-2 minutes until the squid is cooked to perfection.

The only other way to cook squid is to braise it very slowly - you often see braised squid in Chinese restaurants and in slowcooked Mediterranean stews.

There is no middle ground with squid. For it to be tender and delicate, it needs really fast or really slow cooking. Anything else will result in tough, horrible squid.

The method for frying squid is similar in all cuisines. Usually the squid is sliced or chopped and coated in wet batter or seasoned flour which results in a lovely, crisp squid at the end of cooking.

Because of the delicate flavour, a fairly neutral oil should be used to fry squid. I would generally use groundnut oil but sunflower or vegetable oil will do.

If the oil is really hot, the squid will crisp up and it will not absorb the oil and become soggy and flabby.

You can tell if the temperature is right by dropping a cube of bread into the oil.

If it crisps up and floats in about 30 seconds, the oil is hot enough. Somewhere around the 190C mark is what you are looking for.

When it comes to spicing up the squid before frying, you can add more or less chilli than I have suggested, depending on your own taste.

You can also use only plain flour but a mix with cornflour - common in Chinese cooking - helps give a nice crisp finish.

Normally, you buy squid ready-prepared but I've included my own handy hints on how to do it yourself, along with my recipe for sweet chilli sauce the perfect accompaniment.

SALT AND CHILLI SQUID SERVES 4 n 2 large or 4 small squid, cleaned and prepared (see inset panel) and cut into rings 1 tbsp salt 1 tbsp chilli powder 2 tbsp cornflour 4 tbsp plain flour Groundnut oil

METHOD Two thirds fill your deep fat fryer, large wok or a pan with the oil and heat to 190C - use the bread test from the main article to judge if you don't have a thermometer.

Mix the flours, salt and chilli.

Make sure the squid rings are dry then coat with the flour mix. A good way is to place everything in a large freezer or sandwich bag and shake well.

Dust off any excess and fry the squid in batches until crisp and golden. This will normally take between one and two minutes.

Drain on kitchen paper and serve with a dipping sauce - see top panel for one of my favourites.

To make sweet chilli dipping sauce for today's squid dish, finely slice six red chillies and place in a pan with three cloves of crushed garlic, 2cm of grated root ginger, juice of a lime, 4 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp soy sauce,1 tsp of fish sauce, 50ml of rice vinegar or white wine vinegar and 30ml water.

Bring to the boil and simmer gently until it thickens then allow to cool.

If you fancy preparing squid yourself, here's how.

Discard the head and put the tentacles aside.

Pull out the insides and the clear, plastic-like backbone and discard, then remove the membrane from the body and wings (the wings can be eaten).

Rinse the squid inside and out under running cold water and pat dry before cutting the main body into rings and the tentacles into smaller bits.

And there you have it squid prepared by your own fair hands.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Article Type:Recipe
Date:Jun 1, 2008
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