January should be the worst month of the year, and it has all the potential to be. The build up to Christmas is lengthy and intense, Christmas itself whizzes by in a flash and, thud, hello January. Quiet and long, we’re all reeling from spending too much money and January just doesn’t have anything going for it. Or does it?
It does, it really does. And I love January for it. At least, I do at times. I love it for two reasons, both bright and varying shades of red. Fruity and juicy and special, January is the month of the bright red blood orange and spindly, pink, sweet and sour forced rhubarb.
These are possibly two of my favourite ingredients, particularly after the sensory deprivation of the preceding weeks of kale, cabbage and sprouts. They are intense and bright and – smack – that flavour when you bite into them is so big, sweet, sharp and divine. Fantastic in sweet dishes as you would expect, but they are both equally brilliant in savoury.
Tonight I had some blood orange with fennel in a salad. Nice, eh? Now imagine that on top there is crisp fried calamari, coated in fine cornmeal, and really, what more could you want?
Squid is great January fodder, healthy and fresh, and really reasonably priced. The cornmeal provides a delicate coating with gentle flavour, panko or very fine breadcrumbs would work too, this is just what I fancied tonight.
This dish is a perfect January one for me as it’s healthy and light, but a little bit naughty, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It comes together so quickly, the squid takes only a couple of minutes to fry, and there is only three ingredients to prepare. You can buy squid pre-prepared, which would make this even quicker. If you do prepare your own, it’s best to ask your fishmonger to take the ink sacs out for you, as these can get a little bit messy. And I am messy enough as it stands!
Calamari with Blood Orange & Fennel
Ingredients (for two)
2 average sized squid
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced as finely as you can
2 blood oranges
a bowl of fine cornmeal (or panko/breadcrumbs) to coat, seasoned with S&P
one egg, beaten
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
A little parley to dress (optional)
Enough oil to deep fry in a pan or a deep fat fryer
Half one of the oranges and juice, saving the juice for the dressing. Remove the skin and the pith from the remaining one and a half and slice thinly.
Juice the half lemon, and add to the blood orange juice you have set aside. Add the same amount of extra virgin olive oil, and season with S&P to taste. Dress the sliced fennel, and put to the side.
If you’re preparing the squid, remove anything inside, there may be membranes and/or remnants of the ink sac. Remove any coloured membranes from utside (excl tentacles) and you should be left with white flesh.
Slice the squid into rings (excl the tentacles if attached which you can fry as they are). Dry, and dip in the cornmeal, then the egg, then the cornmeal again. Set aside.
Heat some oil in a deep pan to 390F/200C, and fry the squid in small batches. Don’t crowd the pan. Each batch should take no more than a couple of minutes, they will be done when they are brown. Don’t overcook them as they will get tough.
Dry on some kitchen paper and serve with the dressed fennel, some parsley and sliced oranges. Pour some of the dressing on top, but not on the calamari, you don’t want it to go soggy.