I can’t believe I actually made “calamari” at home. I always thought it was next to impossible to make; something confined to being ordered in tavernas by the beautiful Mediterranean Sea in the summer. (Or maybe I just like that thought!) But this recipe proves that this is a myth. I love two things about this recipe. The first is the fact that it is a tasty Cypriot “calamari” recipe, which is one of my “must-have” dishes when I visit Cyprus. I love the fact that I can make it myself. The second is that it goes great with a super duper easy-to-make “tzatziki” recipe and ale from a local brewery I recently discovered.
As yummy as this recipe is, it certainly did not help me overcome my deep-fry phobia. I don’t like frying foods in oil. I don’t feel it’s particularly healthy – though that is not enough of a reason for me. But it splashes, makes a mess, and makes my clothes and house smell. Second, you have to watch the oil like a hawk. It can’t be too hot or too cool, otherwise the “calamari” will not cook properly. It’s quite a particular process for something so unhealthy. But it is delicious. So is it worth it? Well, I love the fact that I know how to make it if I want to, but I think this is just one of those recipes where I prefer, like a million times more, to just buy it in a taverna, by the beautiful Mediterranean sea. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy I de-bunked the myth that only tavernas can make it though, and the fact that this recipe tastes really, really good. If you want to make Cypriot “calamari”, then you should definitely give this recipe a try.
So I went to buy the “calamari” at a highly recommended fishmonger in Cyprus. Both my family and friends have told me to go to this fishmonger. If you would like the name of it, just leave a comment at the bottom and I can tell you where and provide directions. I was greeted immediately and the service was fantastic. I mentioned I would be making “calamari”, and they offered to cut the “calamari” so that I wouldn’t have to do this at home. I accepted. (I get a bit grossed out when cleaning fish. I know I shouldn’t. But I do. Yuk!) In addition, I was going to run a few errands in town and wanted to see if I could keep the squid there until I was done. She happily agreed, (I think people must do this a lot) and put my name on the bag. I paid and picked it up on the way home.
Once home, I removed any remaining bits from the squid, like a couple “beaks” that hadn’t been removed. This part is fairly easy, they just sort of pop out. I got the oil, flour and water ready. I put the oil on high, waited until it got hot, and began to fry the “calamari” one at a time. I made it and after the sort of mess that goes into a deep frying process I really just wanted to clean the entire kitchen to get rid of the frying smell and oil splatters. So I did. I scrubbed and cleaned until all that was left was a beautifully chilled ale and a plate of “calamari” with homemade “tzatziki” sauce (cucumber-garlic-yogurt-dip). I should have really enjoyed the “calamari” right then and there, but I was too anal yesterday to leave the mess!
“Tzatziki” is super-duper easy to make. The only thing to watch for is that it doesn’t get too watery. Otherwise, you can sort of experiment with the ingredients to your taste. The ale I was enjoying was an ale called “Lian Shee Irish Red Ale” from Aphrodite’s Rock Brewing Company in Tsada. It is a local craft brewery in Cyprus. They have ales that incorporate local flavours such as carob extract, which I think is pretty neat. They also deliver to different cities in Cyprus, so even if you live in Nicosia or Limassol and would like to sample their beers, you can. Just call them on + 357 26 101 446. They also put on an annual beerfest, which I think is a great idea. By all means if you want to make “calamari”, I highly recommend this recipe. It’s the traditional Cypriot recipe and you can’t really go wrong with it. Yes, your kitchen may smell of fried fish for a bit, but the taste is still unbeatable. Fried “calamari” is so good it makes my vegetarian friends think about converting. No joke!
Have You Tried? Aphrodite’s Rock Brewing Company – a local craft brewery in Cyprus located in Tsada. WHERE: The Old Winery, Polis Road, Tsada 8540, Cyprus. CONTACT: tel: + 357 26 101 446, email: firstname.lastname@example.org WEBSITE: www.aphroditesrock.com.cy
for the “tzatziki”
2 finely chopped small garlic cloves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small cucumber
250 grams of Cypriot (or Greek style) yogurt
1 teaspoon dried mint
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
salt & pepper to taste
for the “calamari”
500 grams of fresh small squid
a large bowl full of All Purpose Flour
a large bowl of ice cold water (or a large bowl of milk) (see below recipe for more details)
vegetable or olive oil for frying (must be at least 1 inch deep in the pan)
salt & pepper to taste
freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt, pepper & oregano as garnish
Cucumber-Garlic-Yogurt Dip (“Tzatziki”)
1. Add the garlic to olive oil in a medium sized bowl. Note that I prefer my “tzatziki” on the “garlic-y” side, so you can choose to only add one minced garlic if you prefer, and then add more if you think it needs more of a kick later.
2. Finely grate the small cucumber. Then strain the grated cucumber for at least 15 minutes. Sprinkle a little salt on top of the grated cucumber as this will encourage excess liquid to be released.
3. Add the yogurt, cucumber, mint, lemon juice and salt and pepper to the garlic and olive oil. Mix together well. If the mixture appears runny, add a touch more yogurt.
Fried Squid (“Calamari”)
1. Prepare your squid. If you buy fresh squid from a fishmonger, ask them to prepare it for frying. They will remove the innards from the “calamari” and pull the transparent spine out from the body, and remove any beaks as well. Don’t worry, it sounds scary, but it’s not. I get very grossed out by cleaning fish, this was OK. If the tentacles are small (like in the picture) simply leave them as is. Cut the bodies into rings of about 1 inch big or leave them whole, if they are small.
2. Your “calamari” may have been sitting on ice so will be slightly wet. Place the cut pieces of “calamari” on paper towel to soak up an excess liquid for about 10 minutes.
3. Next, prepare your bowl of flour and ice cold water (or milk). Sprinkle some salt and pepper into the flour and mix together.
4. Heat the oil to a very high heat. It has to be very high for the “calamari” to cook properly.
5. Dip a piece of “calamari” into the flour and make sure it is well coated outside and inside. Then quickly dip the piece into the cold water or milk. (It makes no difference to the taste, I simply hear that if you use milk it keeps the “calamari” tender, but to be honest, the “calamari” I dipped in cold water also was tender.) Then dip the piece back into the flour and make sure it is well coated with flour.
6. Once the oil is hot, add the flour coated “calamari” one to three pieces at a time. (I added them one at a time, because I wanted to make sure that the “calamari” did not burn.)
7. They will cook extremely fast – I needed only about 1 minute per piece of small “calamari”, the larger pieces may need an extra minute. You do not want the batter to burn or for the “calamari” to be hard and chewy, hence the quick frying time and the extremely high heat.
8. Remove from the oil and place on a paper towel to remove any excess oil. Then serve immediately, squeezing fresh lemon juice and sprinkling salt, pepper and dried oregano (if you like) to taste on top. (Try the fried “calamari” before adding salt, as it will already be quite salty with the batter and the fact that it is seafood!)