Prime (ministerial)  squid

By Patrick Stuart [email protected]

Last weekend the Portuguese press was buzzing with the news that British PM David Cameron was not only holidaying here in the Algarve but was also at Aljezur market buying squid to take back to their villa for supper. I do wonder if he got the best quality squid – something of a delicacy these days – or the cheaper stuff that can be purchased at most supermarkets.

So what’s the difference? Well, both at least are a wild species from the ocean but the cheaper version is net caught in deep water far off the coast or even in distant lands, but still find their way to us here in the Algarve, not only at supermarkets but also at local municipal markets. But anyone who loves squid will know the difference between these more rubbery squid and the local species caught off our coast at night by the “lula” (squid) boats. There are less of them out there these days, but I remember many years ago in the Algarve when at night the horizon was dotted with the lights of the boats and we used to kid tourists that it was the coast of Morocco!

These are a shallow water species of squid, caught using a “toneira”, a kind of lure with multiple hooks that is dangled in the water under a bright light. They are usually only caught during the warmer months of the year when the sea is calmest, so chances are David was in luck and got the real thing.

There are so many different things to do with squid: deep fry them as squid rings, stuff them, stew them, make a curry … whatever! They are incredibly versatile.

But if I ever get hold of the real “toneira” squid, there is only one way to go for me and that is to grill them over hot charcoal for a few minutes with the ink bag still inside. The secret is not to cook them for too long. If fresh they can be eaten raw but the longer you cook them on the barbeque, the tougher they will get.

Once grilled, remove the quill and cut the bag into rings with a sharp knife, then roughly chop up the head area letting the ink bag split and mingle in with the juices. The tentacles should be slightly crispy and are the tastiest bit.

Have some sliced onions ready and combine the chopped squid with the onions, then drizzle with good oil and garnish with fresh coriander. Some piri-piri for those who like it spicy works a treat.