Sunday, 24 May 2009

Love me, tentacles

Stuffed baby squid

Are there any Freudian practitioners in the house? If so, could I trouble you to turn off the meter for a few minutes and not read too much into the fact that I’ve created two consecutive posts about stuffing things? I’m working on the principle that putting one delicious thing inside another delicious thing is a passport to heaven and I promise it goes no deeper than that. (Of course, this theory doesn’t really have legs. Passionfruit with chicken livers, avocado with cherry jam, melon with ox cheek don’t really appeal unless you’re a tiresomely experimental show-off chef stuck in some kind of 1980s gustatory hell.)

My wonderful sister-in-law Clare is down from Yorkshire for the night and we’ve persuaded our friend Sara Ellen to come over and join us too. It’s hot. The cats are passed out on the terrace, gently baking themselves by the pots of rosemary and mint. The dog is binge drinking his favourite sundowner cocktail: dirty water from a bucket rather than the fresh water in his bowl. I’ve pushed open the doors to the garden to give me a little air as I chop and fry and spoon green-speckled filling into tiny, pearl-fleshed squid.

Squid stuffed with spinach and ricotta

Remember to remove the toothpick...

It's all in the stuffing

Serves 4-6

2 tbsps olive oil
A small knob of unsalted butter
2 medium onions, finely chopped
About 1kg of small squid, cleaned, tentacles and wings reserved
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
A good few handfuls of baby spinach (a 250g bag would be perfect)
250g ricotta
3 hard-boiled eggs, quite finely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
75g pine nuts, toasted
1x400g tin of tomatoes or 400ml passata
About 125ml white wine
3 tbsps chopped parsley
About half a dozen basil leaves
A few grinds of nutmeg
A good pinch of chilli flakes
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Lemon wedges to serve




And stuff

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4.

Warm the olive oil and butter in a large frying pan over a medium-low heat and gently sauté the onion until soft and translucent, about 10-15 minutes. While they’re cooking, finely chop the tentacles and wings from the squid. When the onions are done, add the chopped squid and garlic to the pan and sauté for a minute. Next, add the spinach and stir until wilted (you might have to do a handful or so at a time). Put a sieve over a bowl and strain the spinach-squid mixture, reserving the liquid. Let the mixture cool.

In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta, chopped egg, beaten egg and pine nuts. Season well with a good pinch of salt, plenty of pepper, a few grinds of nutmeg and a sprinkling of chilli flakes. Fold in the cooled spinach and squid. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Use a teaspoon to fill the squids’ bodies with the stuffing, taking care not to overfill them as they expand a bit while cooking. Seal each little body with a toothpick. (At this point, they bore a rather striking resemblance to the sheeps’ testicles which are a great favourite at our local Turkish restaurant. I tried not to let this put me off.) Place them in a single layer in a large, ovenproof dish.

Nearly ready for the oven

Purée the tinned tomatoes and mix them with the reserved liquid from the spinach and the wine. Season well with salt and pepper, a little nutmeg, a pinch of chilli flakes and three or four big leaves of basil, finely chopped. Pour over the stuffed squid, cover with a lid or foil and bake for 45 minutes, removing the cover for the last 10 minutes. Serve sprinkled with basil and with lemon wedges on the side. We ate ours with roasted asparagus and lots of rice to soak up the lovely sauce.


  1. This sounds you know I've never attempted squid at home...only at work!? Hmmm, you've inspired me :D

  2. I made squid at home once - and the effort to take the skeleton out and clean them made me REALLY appreciate the cost of this very favorite dish of mine at a restaurant in a new light. When in Spain for a holiday one fortnight I ate it everyday - grilled with lemon for lunch without fail - and would do it again in a heartbeat.But the effort and, well, smell, prior to cooking - makes me a weeny right now -please, don't hold it against me -

  3. Hello Girlichef - I'm so pleased!
    Hello Lady P - Oooh, I have befriended those Spanish grilled or deep fried squid on many a happy occasion. So, so delicious. I know what you mean about the prep, but you get into a rhythm and I'm quite quick at it now. And they shouldn't smell bad, just a clean, intense aroma of the sea. And I'd never call you a weeny, dear.


  4. I love squid, especially the tentacles! This dish looks great, I've always wanted to try stuffed squid.

  5. Okay, that is delicious and hilarious, but you think a sentence like this is easy to read, non-Freudian?

    "I’m working on the principle that putting one delicious thing inside another delicious thing is a passport to heaven and I promise it goes no deeper than that."

  6. I'm loving your "stuffing" posts. This stuffing sounds really interesting. Anything with spinach and ricotta and I am sold. The addition of hard boiled eggs is quite intriguing. Never heard that one before.

    Your made me laugh with the dog's drinking water. I think I can better it. I found my dog licking chicken poo right next to her bowl with a meaty bone in it. Ugly but true!

  7. Curled round in their dish they look like a nest of little white mice going to sleep. Aah!

  8. Great! Thanks so much--I love this dish and have never made it because I don't have a good recipe!

  9. Sara - Thank you for visiting. I hope you try the squid sometime. I was thinking, it might be nice to keep back some of the tentacles and deep fry them as an extra little flourish for each plate, a nice combination of crisp and smooth.

    Dana - Erm, no. You're right. But I thought I told you to turn the meter off?

    Mariana - Ha, you caught me. I've always made this with spinach and ricotta before but when I went to put it all together, I realised I didn't have enough ricotta, only 250g as opposed to the 400-500g I normally use. Then I remembered the filling for a pie I like making which has all of these ingredients plus chopped boiled egg and I thought I could make up the weight with that. It went quite well. The textures are good together, but if you prefer just use the spinach and ricotta.

    Aren't dogs hilarious? Their habits are quite revolting and yet we love them anyway. I think they're put on this earth to make men look sophisticated.

    WR - Good lord, I think they look like sheep's testicles, you think they look like baby mice. We're not selling these very well are we?

    Catherine - Oh, I do hope you try it!


  10. These look so delicious! I'm going to have to try them.

  11. Gratinee - Thank you! And thank you for visiting. If you do try them, let me know how you get on.


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