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Seared squid

This is a fabulously fast bit of cookery, which gives you a toothsome, piquant dish in next to no time. Don't attempt it with very large squid, though, or you'll end up with a tough result - monster cephalopods tend to respond best to long, slow cooking. Small (not tiny) and medium squid are what you want here, and the key to success is speed. If you can be identified as anything more than a blur with a pair of tongs, you are moving too slowly. And, whether you're using a griddle plate, barbecue or frying pan, high heat must be the order of the day. For a change from paprika, try making this with sumac. A Middle Eastern spice of crushed, dried berries, it has a lovely, lemony tang that pairs beautifully with squid. You'll find it in larger supermarkets and delicatessens.


Clean the squid. Set aside the trimmed tentacles. Now cut open the squid pouches and 'butterfly' them, making sure you don't cut right through the flesh. Cut each butterflied squid body into 2 or 3 smaller pieces.

Combine the squid pieces, along with the tentacles, in a bowl with the garlic, olive oil, paprika or sumac, and salt and pepper, tossing them together with your hands and making sure lots of the flavourings get trapped in the diamond cuts. Heat a barbecue, cast-iron griddle or heavy-based ridged pan until really hot. Lay the pieces of squid on it, diamond side up, and the tentacles as they fall. Let them cook for just 1 minute, then turn them all over. Cook for a minute more.

The butterflied squid pieces will want to curl up, so flip them over one more time to encourage them to do so, and allow the curled-up pieces to get a final minute of cooking. Total cooking time: 4 minutes max.

Serve immediately, with a few more pinches of paprika or sumac flicked over the squid. On the side: a few dressed, peppery salad leaves, such as rocket, mustard and baby kale. And, if you want to make a main course out of it, chips.

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  • 4-5 small-medium squid (about 750g-1kg in total)
  • 1 large garlic clove, very finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp sweet or smoked paprika, or sumac (see above), plus 1 teaspoon to finish the dish
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

This recipe is taken from...

River Cottage Fish