The cuttlefish that I beat in Donna versus the cuttlefish did not deploy its inky defences in vain. This was my first time filleting and cooking the beastie, and I turned to the Med for inspiration. I had in mind a cross between the tender richness of pork cooked in red wine, and a taste of Spain and Portugal, where they love this mollusc. There seems to be two options available with cuttlefish, as with squid and octopus: long and slow or fast and high. Slow cooking transforms it into a tender, yielding mouthful, high and fast gives a crispy finish without any rubberiness. Slightly daunted by quite how much cuttlefish I had on my hands, I took the long, slow route for my inaugural cuttlefish recipe.
I was happy with how this turned out, although I’ve reduced the amount of wine in the recipe below as the version I made was a touch too rich. I made it with red wine, but I think white would also work very well, perhaps with some small new potatoes in place of the haricot beans. We ate it with polenta the first night, and sourdough the second, and being quite bland carbs both worked well given the richness of the sauce.
This was worth the mess of preparing the cuttlefish and I think I’ll fry it up calamari/salt and pepper squid-style next time, with some aioli on the side. Being lucky enough to get it so fresh, I’ll definitely get it again and try it the fast way. I think it’d be a fantastic snack for a crowd, or a very greedy dinner for two or three along, munched in the sunshine with a cold beer or a bone-dry sherry.
Cuttlefish braised in wine
Cooking time: 2.5 hours
You will need a large casserole or saucepan with a lid
1 cuttlefish weighing approximately 1.5kg, cleaned and prepared
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
2tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
200ml red or white wine
1x400g tin/carton tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
Haricot beans (either 140g dried, and then cooked according to packet instructions, or 2 x 400g tins)
Zest of ¼ lemon
Juice of half a lemon
Handful of chopped parsley
1. Cut the cuttlefish body into 2cm chunks. Cut the larger tentacles in half and leave smaller ones whole.
2. Fry the onion gently in oil for 5-10 minutes until it’s soft, but don’t let it brown too much.
3. Add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes.
4. When the garlic has softened, add the cuttlefish pieces to the pan along with the paprika and oregano.
5. Pour in the wine and increase the heat to burn off some of the alcohol. Add the tomatoes and puree and give everything a good stir round. The cuttlefish should be covered with liquid so that it gently braises and doesn’t dry out. Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to add a little extra water to keep the cuttlefish covered in liquid while it cooks.
6. Add the bay leaf and a little salt and pepper and bring to a very gentle simmer.
7. Place the lid on the pan and turn the heat down very low and gently simmer for 2 hours. Check on the liquid level half way through the cooking time and top up with a little water if needed. The liquid should not be bubbling, just very gently blipping away to itself.
8. After two hours, the cuttlefish should be tender and yielding. Add the haricot beans and cook for another 30 minutes, uncovered to let the sauce reduce slightly. Taste, and add more salt and pepper if needed.
9. Just before serving, stir through the lemon zest and juice, and the parsley.
Serve with polenta or mashed potatoes, or just some crusty bread to dunk in and mop up the sauce.
P.S. This recipe also appears on the Farm Direct website and is hopefully the first of many!