BBQ Stuffed squid with prawns and herbs

This is the third in a series of recipes I wrote for the Wine Trust 100 website, which I’ve been posting here too because, why not? I’ve also made Roman style lamb with caponata and crab fried rice

The wonderful thing about the British weather is that we can definitely define the seasons, from April showers through to rusty autumn leaves and the bare-naked chill of winter. When summer comes around though, anything goes. One minute you’re sitting on a roof terrace hosing back Tinto de Verano like nobody’s business, the next a wave of thick blue-black cloud has moved over, and you’re setting up a brolly over the BBQ. Yes, I have actually done that (the brolly stank so much of smoke that it was unusable afterwards).

There’s a certain element of risk to the British BBQ then, but that doesn’t mean we have to be boring with our choice of what goes on it. I feel that the image of the sweaty red Brit serving up raw sausages is a little unfair nowadays, but I certainly do see the same dishes on rotation throughout the summer, notably cous cous salads and really bad pulled pork. There’s a dangerous pulled pork obsession gripping the nation, the problem being that no one knows how to cook it properly, and we end up gumming pappy buns of cotton wool textured meat doused in BBQ sauce. Stop.

As much as I adore (properly) slow-cooked meat, there’s a lot to be said for seafood on the grill. Squid is cheap and easy to cook yet, as far as I can tell, rarely used. I love to stuff them, and make many variations on the filling, including one with Thai flavours like lemongrass and lime leaves, and another with chorizo-led Spanish vibes. Here I’ve gone light and fresh with prawns and soft herbs, which matches the salty and crisp Assyrtiko beautifully. It’s the main grape variety from the island of Santorini and I’ve long thought it underrated. Lean and super mineral-y these wines cry out like gulls for grilled seafood.

The idea when cooking this dish is to channel a mahogany-skinned Greek, expertly tending the BBQ on the white-painted terrace of his island home, overlooking the glittering turquoise Aegean.

BBQ Stuffed Squid with Prawns and Herbs (matched with 2014 Assyrtiko, Wild Ferment, Gaia)

8 small squid, cleaned and prepared (if you have the tentacles too you can grill these separately, they will crisp up beautifully, or chop them up and add them to the filling mix)

150g cooked prawns, finely chopped
1 handful chives, finely chopped (save a little for garnish)
1 handful parsley leaves, finely chopped (save a little for garnish)
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1 large clove of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
Zest 1 lemon
Oil, like vegetable or groundnut
Lemon, halved, to serve

You will also need cocktail sticks, for securing the squid.

Mix the prawns, herbs, garlic, lemon zest and some salt and pepper in a bowl. Stuff the mixture into the squid, taking care not to over-stuff (as they will shrink during cooking). Secure each with a cocktail stick.

Rub the squid with oil and season lightly, then grill until golden (this will take around 5 minutes or so on each side, but will depend on the size of the squid).
At the same time, cut the lemon in half and grill until caramelised.

Ensure the squid are piping hot throughout and serve with the caramelised lemons.

Squid, Pork and Clam Stew

When on holiday in Spain, my mates and I bought a packet of jamon off-cuts; the stubby pieces from the end of a leg of ham which are no good for carving but better (we presumed) for slow cooked dishes, like stews. We didn’t have time to use them while there due to the sheer, greedy quantity of other food we’d bought but as they would keep well, I brought them back and made a promise to cook something at a later date. Inspiration came from a squid dish we’d eaten in a local restaurant in L’Escala – tender rings in a rich, reduced tomato sauce. I wanted to re-create it and, as ever, considered what would happen if I added some pig.

I fried the off-cuts until the fat melted then used that as a base for a tomato, red pepper and smoked paprika sauce, cooked down very slowly for 3 hours or more. It’s a weekend job, so I made a big batch and shoved some in the freezer. After that, it’s just a case of simmering the squid until tender. I also added some clams last minute because I love the combination of shellfish and pork. To finish, a picada, Catalan-style: crushed garlic, breadcrumbs and toasted ground almonds which thicken the sauce and add punch. A sprinkle of parsley, a wedge of lemon and serve. We mopped it up with torn chunks of a crusty white loaf, washed it down with Brew Dog beers and re-acquainted ourselves with the level of smugness we’d felt while on holiday.

Squid, Pork and Clam Stew

For the base tomato sauce

1 packet of jamon off-cuts (sorry, I can’t remember the quantity but I reckon about 200g. Chorizo would make a good substitute)
5 tomatoes
2 red peppers
1 large stick of celery
2 large onions
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 heaped teaspoon sugar

Begin by skinning the tomatoes. Cover them with boiling water then wait for about 5 minutes until their skins start to split. You can then take them out and peel the skins off.

Finely chop the peppers, celery and onions (it’s worth making the effort to chop them very finely). When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, roughly chop them. Add a couple of tablespoons of vegetable or groundnut oil to a heavy based pan then add the pork bits until the fat has melted, stirring often over a medium-low heat.

When the fat has melted, add the vegetables, smoked paprika and sugar, bring to a simmer then reduce to the lowest heat. Put the lid on and let cook very gently for 3 hours if possible.

For the rest of the stew

2 medium squid
2 handfuls clams
A couple of tablespoons chopped parsley
500ml vegetable or fish stock
Lemons, to serve
Bread, to serve

1 clove garlic, crushed
1 slice dry white bread, made into crumbs
50g almonds, lightly toasted

Make the picada by toasting the almonds in a dry pan: move them around often over a medium heat until lightly golden. Grind them to a paste in a pestle and mortar. Mix them very well with the garlic and breadcrumbs.

When the tomato sauce is ready, heat your stock and add it to the tomato sauce. Add the squid, then simmer until the squid is tender, about 40 minutes. While the squid is cooking, clean your clams by submerging them in salted water for half an hour; this is so they spit out all the grit and other stuff you don’t want to eat. Drain them and add to the sauce for a few minutes, until their shells pop open. Add a tablespoon of picada, stir it in then taste and decide if you want any more. I found a tablespoon to be enough.

Ladle the stew into bowls, then scatter the parsley over and serve with lemon wedges, and the bread.

Thai Style Stuffed Squid

Too cold for a BBQ you say? Pah! Never. Well, not yet anyway. There’s nothing like flinging a few good things on a hot Weber to chase away the winter blues, and good things were in abundance as we chowed our way through these enormous steaks, some spectacular sausages, a smoky baba ganoush, a rack of sticky jerk ribs and my contribution: Thai style stuffed squids.

When researching the recipe I discovered that stuffing squid with pork mince is actually a Vietnamese preparation but I had some galangal, coriander and lime leaves hanging around so Thai-style it was. To lighten the stuffing I also added breadcrumbs soaked in milk (as you would for an Italian meatball), which might seem a bit odd but was designed to avoid ending up with an overly heavy and coarse mixture, what with it being a BBQ and therefore an exercise in maximising stomach capacity. I actually added a bit too much in the end which I thought made it overly loose but everyone else told me to stop fretting and rein in the pedantry.

The most important thing to bear in mind when preparing your squid is that one should not over-stuff. The squid shrinks when cooking and if you’ve too much pig jammed in, then there can only be one result and that is a big porky mess. I’d pre-cooked the filling so we simply rubbed with oil, seasoned and grilled until golden on each side; just enough time for the filling to heat through and the squid to stay delightfully bouncy and toothsome. The tentacles were also given the appropriate amount of respect; we saw no better way to treat them than seasoning highly and draping across the searing hot grill until the suckers were curled and crispy-tipped.

At 7pm, when two layers of clothing were no longer enough to keep out the chill and the wind kept blowing out the candles, we admitted defeat and retired to the sofas for cheese, gin and a bit of inebriated shouting at the telly. Winter BBQ’s rock.

Squid on the BBQ


Thai-style Stuffed Squid

6 squid (on the small side of medium), cleaned
350g minced pork
2 tablespoons fish sauce (plus more to taste)
2 fat spring onions (green parts only), finely sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
2 crushed garlic cloves,grated
1/2 inch piece galangal, grated
4 lime leaves, finely chopped
2 Thai chillies, finely chopped
1 small handful coriander leaves, finely chopped
2-3 sliced of white bread (crusts removed), soaked in enough milk to make it into a mush when mashed with a fork
Black pepper
Juice of 1 lime (plus another to adjust to taste)

Cocktail sticks, for sealing

First make the filling. Mix the pork mince with all the ingredients except the fish sauce, lime juice and coriander. Add this mixture to a pan over a fairly gentle heat and stir every now and then until cooked through. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely if you will not be cooking the squids right away.

Ensure that each squid is sealed at the thin, pointy end as they can sometimes have a hole. If this is the case, secure with a cocktail stick before stuffing each with the pork mixture. Take care not to overstuff the squids as they will shrink during cooking. Secure the end with another cocktail stick.

To cook the squid, rub each with oil and season lightly then grill until golden on each side.