I’ve been enjoying looking through the wonderful The Silver Spoon: Naples and the Amalfi Coast book that my friends Jane and Terry gave me for my birthday just over a week ago.
Even if you don’t want to cook anything, it’s the most glorious book to look through and read. However, one of the recipes that first caught my eye and I did want to cook was ‘Totani alla Sorrentina’ – a recipe for stuffed squid. It was a fairly last-minute decision this afternoon to cook the dish tonight. I was out and about locally so popped into my local fishmongers and bought some baby squid. I said I was planning to stuff them and the fishmonger recommended I bought 3 for one portion (they only cost me £1.89).
I vaguely remembered the recipe, having looked at it earlier in the day, so bought some mozzarella and tomatoes too. The recipe calls for San Marzano tomatoes, those extraordinarily tasty and special tomatoes from Naples. They’re often referred to as ‘Mount Vesuvius’ tomatoes as they grow on the fertile, volcanic soil around the Vesuvius. It’s said – by Italians – that the only true Margherita Pizza is one made with San Marzano tomatoes. Well the chance of getting the genuine tomato in Twickenham was nil, so I settled for some organic little cherry tomatoes I’ve bought in M&S Simply Food a few times and know to be particularly tasty.
Back home I started to get things together and was rather surprised to see that the cooking time was 1 hour. I always think of cooking squid quickly. Now, what I hadn’t taken into account in my enthusiasm to buy baby squid and stuff them was that the recipe really calls for bigger grown-up squid. Still I was not deterred. I made the stuffing and, with a good deal of difficulty it has to be said, somehow managed to stuff the squid through a small opening at the top.
Because I was using very small tomatoes, I decided there was no way I was going to skin and seed them, as the recipe instructs. I often make fresh tomato sauce for pasta without peeling the tomatoes. I got the whole dish together and left it gently simmering. Pretty soon I saw that the filling was starting to seep out. At this time I was exchanging emails with my friend Annie (organising our next restaurant excursion). I told her about the squid. She said it sounded complicated and I replied, not really, but the stuffing was leaking out; if it was all a disaster, then she wouldn’t see it on the blog! So … what is a disaster? I have had disasters that I haven’t written up but it turned out that the squid, while they looked a disaster – if you compared them to the appealing photo in the book …
– tasted absolutely wonderful. I therefore decided to tell you all about it; give you the recipe. I would recommend that you use it for a full-size squid though, not baby ones (the recipe below would be right for one squid). And it also goes to show that this food blogger doesn’t always cook perfect food. It’s a shame when people feel intimidated about cooking for me now I write the blog because while I think I’m a pretty good home cook, I’m not a professional, and a lot of the time I’m cooking straightforward, simple food – and I do have the odd disaster! I just don’t usually blog it. But the taste of this ‘disaster’ was so good it’s worth sharing … and it did remind me of the brilliant and famous chef, Massimo Bottura’s signature dessert – Oops, I dropped the Lemon Tart … broken but still fabulous (click here for my meal at his restaurant, including the famous tart). Not that I’m claiming my dish tonight was in that league, just that visual disasters can sometimes taste very good!
Baby Squid Stuffed Sorrento Style
I had to adjust the recipe to accommodate cooking for one rather than six; some ingredients are halved and others a third, so use your judgement if you multiply – or buy the book! It’s worth having.
- 3 baby squid
- 4 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs
- 3 bocconcini (baby mozzarella – or 75g), chopped
- 5g grated Parmesan
- pinch of chilli flakes
- 1 egg, beaten
- salt and pepper
- 200g cherry tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
Put the breadcrumbs, chopped mozzarella, Parmesan, chilli flakes, salt and pepper in a bowl. Add the beaten egg and mix well together.
Now stuff the squid, pushing in and then finishing with folding the tentacles into the top (supposedly to hold the stuffing in!).
I prepared these a little in advance, covered with cling film and put in the fridge while I prepared the tomato sauce. Halve the cherry tomatoes and chop the parsley. Put the olive oil in the pan with the garlic and gently cook until the garlic starts to brown, then remove it. This way you’ll get the flavour of the garlic without having to eat it – and possibly make yourself unpopular with non-garlic eaters if you do!
Now add the tomatoes and parsley with a seasoning of salt. Cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until the tomatoes start to break down and soften.
Add the squid.
Turn down to a gentle simmer and put a lid on the pan. Leave to cook for about 40 minutes (if they’re baby squid; an hour for a big squid), turning carefully occasionally.
So far, all good and I was pleased with how it was going. Doesn’t it look great? Lesson to the cook: don’t get smug; don’t count your chickens, etc.
Now, I wouldn’t like to promote the idea that alcoholic relieves stress … but … maybe it’s as well that I decided – sticking with the Italian theme – to open a little bottle (one of those individual sizes) of prosecco at that point.
As I sipped my fizz, I saw that the squid was shrinking as it cooked and the stuffing was coming out. Mmmm … well it did look a bit of a mess.
I planned to cook some black seppia pasta to go with it …
I decided the only thing I could do was to remove the cooked squid and slice in two or three and mix some of the sauce with the cooked pasta. It wasn’t going to look quite how I’d imagined.
Well, not if you compare it with the one in the book. But it sure did taste wonderful; delicious. I loved it. I really must try it again with a full-size squid and make sure I secure the top opening as best I can. But meanwhile, beautifully presented food is a wonderful thing but in the end, it’s the taste that counts.