Some facts about cuttlefish:
- Along with octopus and squid, cuttlefish are classed as molluscs
- Traditionally, sepia ink is derived from cuttlefish ink
- Cuttlefish have three hearts.
First things first, grasp the head firmly just behind its eyes and pull. Hard.
The head should pop off, leaving a trail of innards. Scoop these out as best you can and discard them.
Put the head to one side while you tackle the body. If you can stop staring at its eyes…..
Inside the body is the cuttlebone, most usually seen in a budgie’s cage. I couldn’t get it to “just pop out” so made a little incision in the rounded pointy part of the body, where I could feel the end of the bone. I could then get my fingers round the end of it and pulled it out.
More fun cuttlefish facts: the cuttlebone gives the cuttlefish buoyancy, is made of aragonite and has been known to be used by jewellers who whittle moulds used to cast small objects.
Fun facts over. Cuttlebone out, there’s a beak to remove from the tentacle end. If Alien gives you nightmares, you may want to look away now….
Still with me? Okay, you need to squeeze this sucker out by pushing upwards from underneath. Makes sense when you try to do it, I promise. Seeing the beak emerge is freaky and satisfying in equal measures. Once it pops right up, pull it off and discard.
I used the garden tap to rinse the tentacle end off, and had the body in a bucket of water at my side. Very, very inky water.
So now you need to take the tentacles away from the head, and then chop them up.
First, slice off the two fish-catching long tentacles off near the body and put them to one side. This is the start of your “good bits” collection.
Then use your eye to judge where the meaty tentacles end and the body begins and slice through to separate the tentacles (which you’re keeping) from the eyes and head (which you’re not).
Chuck away the head and give the tentacles a good wash so you can see what you’re doing. Separate the tentacles into bite sized chunks, adding them to your good pile. Run your finger over the suckers to find the particularly large hard rings that support the big suckers, and chuck them. Don’t worry too much about the small ones, they magically disappear when you cook the fish (or get soft, or something…I didn’t find myself picking out what feels like contact lenses from the stew I made, so one way or another, they don’t pose a problem).
So, covered in ink? Check. You’re not done yet though. Onwards!
Time to go back to the body. You now need to take the wings off the body, and the thick membrane-y skin from everything.
Again, I couldn’t get the wings to just “pop off” by bending them backwards towards each other (maybe this is easier on smaller cuttlefish?) so used my filleting knife to start me off. Once I’d cut between the skin and flesh, it was easy to run my fingers along and separate the wings from the body.
Do the same to remove the other wing.
Use a clean tea towel (and having washed it twice to try in vain to get rid of the fishy smell and staining of the ink, one you’re not especially fond of) to grasp the skin in one hand, and pull the white flesh away with your other.
Use the same tea towel stripping technique to remove the skin from the body of the cuttlefish.
There be a few bits of membrane left on the body, so use your finger to slide between the membrane and body. The membrane is quite tough when cooked, so the more you remove, the more tender the cooked cuttlefish will be.
Revert to the knife for tricky or tough bits and to trim any bits round the edges you’re not sure about. But that’s it, you’re done! And I’d wager, pretty inky!
Duly dismembered, the cuttlefish clearly made its way into the kitchen, and was transformed into dinner. Recipe coming right up…..