102. Squid & Bean Stew
The smell of slowly cooking squid casserole is intoxicating to me; I clearly remember the first time I made one in my sisters aga, decades ago, using a really simple Rick Stein recipe that we cook at the shed, popping it into the oven then walking into the kitchen a while later and being bowled over by the sweet thick scent of seafood and tomatoes melting together. I was hooked.
The dish is hugely forgiving as long as you follow the low and slow rule and open to all sorts of interpretations. Here I used white wine, celery and onions, and a bit of smoked bacon. Bulked out with white beans it is a bowl food wonder any time of year, but especially now as spoon food is so good for winter sofa nights.
2 x 300g packs of frozen raw prepared squid (or equivalent), defrosted
65g pack smoked pancetta cubes
1 large onion, finely diced
2 fat garlic cloves, crushed
1tsp fennel seeds
2 sticks of celery, diced
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp thyme leaves
300ml dry white wine
250g passata or tinned tomatoes
450ml light chicken stock (or just use water)
400g can of cannellini or haricot beans, drained
To serve; fresh chopped parsley, aioli, and croutons or toasted fine breadcrumbs
Heat the oven to 150 fan.
Cut the squid bodies into rings and lay them out along with the tentacles, on a roasting tray lined with kitchen paper or clean j-cloths, then press down on top with more kitchen paper to dry the squid as much as possible and remove any excess moisture. This will greatly help it colour as it sears.
Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a medium sized casserole and fry the pancetta over a gentle heat to slowly caramelise and release some smoky fat. When it is lightly golden remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Turn the heat as high as it will go and fry the squid in 2 or 3 batches, searing all over and removing to the bacon pile after a minute or so once it has turned opaque and hopefully slightly brown around the edges.
In the same pan add a splash more oil, reduce the heat to medium and fry the onion, garlic and fennel seeds with a teaspoon of salt for about 5 minutes until softened. Next add the celery, bay and thyme leaves and fry for a further 3 minutes then tip the squid, bacon and any juices from the plate back into the casserole. Pour over the wine and bring to the boil, then add the passata and stock and some salt and pepper. Put on a lid and cook in the oven for 2 hours checking half way through and adjusting the seasoning. Top up with a bit of water if it is looking dry.
After 2 hours stir through the drained beans and return to the oven without the lid for another 35-45 minutes by which time it should be rich and sweet, and the squid meltingly soft.
Serve generous portions in warm bowls topped with parsley, croutons and aioli or garlic mayo.