26 August 2006

Improvising with samphire

Chefette had a rip-roaring culinary success last night with an improvised warm salad. It was one of those evenings when everything just worked in the kitchen. When previously random shopping instincts -- by which I mean buying whatever looks good in the market even though you have no idea what you're going to do with it later -- combine so fortuitously with random leftovers in the fridge that inspiration strikes, and cheffy brainwaves conjure up a new dish. The Husband was so bowled over that he insisted that I should immediately note down the recipe.

So, in response to the Husband's urgings, I have attempted to record it for posterity. It borrows in part from an old Nigel Slater recipe for chargrilled squid with parsley. But I think addition of the crunchy samphire and earthy sauté potatoes round it out into a delicious whole.

SAMPHIRE, if you haven't heard of it, is one of the most lovely wild vegetables. Chefette first tasted it in Norfolk a decade ago, having bought a bunch from a man at a roadside shack selling dressed crabs. A sort of 'asparagus of the sea', it's a form of edible seaweed, which might sound a bit slimy but I can assure you that the young stalks are nothing but succulent, tender crunch. It's a real delicacy, and absolutely worth trying if you can get it fresh. I've seen it sold in jars in France, but haven't ever tried it that way myself. If you can't get hold of samphire, it might work by substituting very fine young green beans instead (and increasing the blanching time a bit).

Would feed four as a starter, or two as a main.

Squid & Samphire Salad


450-500g squid
3 large handfuls of samphire
3 medium floury potatoes -- cooked whole and cooled in their skins (i used leftover baked maris piper potatoes)
bit of vegetable and/or peanut oil
2 juicy limes
1 clove garlic, peeled and bruised

For the dressing:
4T good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch of coriander
Small bunch flat parsley leaves
2 red chillies
Salt & freshly ground pepper for seasoning


1. Clean the squid, and reserve tentacles (take care to remove the beaks). Slice the main body cavity into thick rings. Trim off long tentacles to same length as shorter tentacles, keeping each bunch of tentacles intact. Rinse prepared squid and pat dry with kitchen paper. Reserve in fridge until ready.

2. Wash and pick over the samphire, removing any woody stems.

3. Make the dressing: Put the olive oil into a mixing bowl. Finely chop the herbs, and add to the oil. Remove the seeds and membranes from the chillies, and dice very finely. Add to the dressing. Season dressing with salt and pepper.

4. Peel the cooked, cooled potatoes. Break them up into irregular, bite-size chunks. Make sure they are dry, and well seasoned. Heat a bit of vegetable or peanut oil a non-stick pan together with the bruised clove of garlic. As soon as the garlic clove starts to colour, remove it. Add the potatoes to the garlicky oil, and saute until the outsides are crispy and golden. Do not rush this stage-- start with very hot oil, and then turn heat down to low and continue cooking the potato chunks without turning too often. You want them to have a golden, crispy exterior. Hold in a warming oven.

5. While the potatoes are sauteing, heat up a cast iron griddle plate or skillet, and bring a large pot of water to boil. You'll need these ready to cook the squid and samphire, respectively, as soon as the potatoes are done.

6. Toss the squid in a bit of oil, and squeeze over the juice of one and a half limes. Cook the squid on the hot griddle plate, about 1 minute each side or perhaps less. Don't let it go too long or it will be tough. Remove the squid and immediately turn it through the dressing.

7. Blanche the samphire for 30 seconds, then drain well in a colander. Put into a serving bowl, and squeeze over the juice from the remaining half lime.

8. Add the saute potatoes and dressed squid to the samphire, and mix once or twice to coat everything evenly in the dressing. Taste and correct seasoning if necessary. Serve warm.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

so glad you are back on..really miss your comments...lets have more....and good luck from america. Mimi