I’m feeling very proud of my lettuces at the moment. Late last month I planted out my lettuce seedlings into the bed that the potatoes had been in.
The above picture shows the plants on the 31st January. This next shot shows them on 17th of February.
Despite daily harvests they have pretty much tripled in size in 3 weeks. It would appear that lettuces love being grown in a mix of pea straw and well rotted manure. I am picking leaves off them daily but aside from the occasional slightly lopsided one you can’t really tell as they are growing so well.
I potted up the next batch of seedlings last Sunday, as a couple of the current lot are showing signs of bolting, – hardly surprising given it is February (today’s temp 37 C). I plan to sow more seed next week, so I am feeling very much of top of the salad leaves situation.
As its summer I also have large amounts of aromatic herbs in the garden. Vietnamese mint, Thai Basil, Common Mint and Perilla and it is these that I combined with some salad leaves to produce a lovely warm calamari salad.
Before I tell you the recipe though I just wanted to clarify something that has troubled me in the past and that is the difference between squid and calamari. According to my fishmonger; calamari is a type of squid which is particulary prized by Australian’s of Italian background hence the use of the Italian name. The calamari variety has the sweetest flesh and is generally thinner than varieties known simply as ‘squid’. It is also a good $18kg more expensive than ‘squid’, at my fishmonger. Whether this is justified in a dish like this one I will leave up to the reader but personally I used squid in my dish and it tasted good! Incidently the difference between Arrowhead squid and just ‘squid’ is the method of catching. Arrowhead squid is line caught whilst ‘squid’ is caught as a byproduct of fishing (for fish) with nets. Arrowhead is generally more expensive than ‘squid’ but cheaper than calamari. Isn’t it amazing how much you can learn by asking a fishmonger a simple question?
This recipe, for which you can use any squid variety, is based on one in Teague Ezard (a fabulous Melbourne based chef)’s book, Ezard. Whilst this recipe may appear long the end result is fabulous and worth the effort. It also doesn’t take nearly as long as the ingredients list suggests it might.
When buying the squid the frozen tubes you can buy are fine for this dish and will save you the hassle of cleaning the squid yourself. Unfortunately my fishmonger doesn’t sell them (how often is it that you actively want frozen seafood over fresh? And yet here it is useful…) so I buy the fresh stuff and then have to clean it. Not my most favourite job in the world…..
Spicy Calamari Salad
- 2 large squid, cleaned and sliced into thin (about 2mm across) strips
- 1 tbspn rice flour
- Sunflower oil (or similar) for deep frying
For the seasoning:
- 1 tbspn rock salt (or salt flakes)
- 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
- 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
- 1/2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
- 1/2 tsp 5 spice powder
For the salad:
- 200g of mixed leaves. I used Vietnamese Mint, Mint, Thai Basil, Coriander, Perilla, Sorrel and a few different varieties of lettuce.
- 1 cucumber.
- 1 tbspn lime juice
- 1 tbspn lemon juice
- 1 tbspn palm sugar (or soft brown sugar if you can’t get palm sugar)
- 1 tbspn extra virgin olive oil
For the garnish:
- 2 cloves garlic – thinly sliced
- a 2cm cube of ginger – thinly sliced
- 1 red chilli – thinly sliced
First make the seasoning. In a coffee or spice grinder grind together the ingredients for the seasoning. Set aside. You will having seasoning left over for next time you make the dish.
To make the salad: pick the herb leaves from their stems, rip the lettuce, perilla and sorrel leaves into pieces. Slice the cucumber. Although I didn’t use it this time you could also add onion to the salad. To make the dressing mix together the juices, sugar and olive oil. Set aside.
Heat oil for deep frying. Fry the garnish slices in the hot oil until they just start to colour. Remove, drain on kitchen paper and set aside.
Put the rice flour on a plate, making sure the squid is fairly dry roll the squid in the rice flour until it is coated. Fry the rice flour coated squid in the hot oil until it starts to brown, this should only take a minute or two. Drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle with some seasoning. Check seasoning level and adjust if neccessary.
To assemble the salad, place a handful of salad including the cucumber on each plate. Place squid on top. Add garnish then pour some dressing over the whole thing. Serve immediately.
I’m sharing this post as part of Salad Days, for more head over to VegPlotting.