Cooking with squid and prawns
They can be barbecued, grilled, stir-fried, battered, casseroled, curried, baked, placed on pizzas or added to pastas, soups or salads — versatile frozen squid and prawns are often my go-to, inexpensive, Sunday night meal. They’re calorie-low and there is no wastage.
Squid, also known as calamari, has a mild flavour and — if correctly cooked — a tender texture. It needs either speedy cooking (a few seconds) or be slow enough for the squid to become tender again — but not in between. That is when it becomes really tough.
Nutritionally squid is a good source of protein and essential vitamins and minerals. It produces a black ink as a defence mechanism which is rich in iron and antioxidants. The ink is added to foods to provide a good flavour and dark colour. Squid ink pasta is a common example.
Frozen squid is readily available as whole cleaned tubes, rings or scored or ‘pineapple’ cut curls.
In New Zealand, prawns are small crustaceans over about six centimetres. Anything smaller we call shrimp. In America, all sizes are referred to as shrimp. The colour varies from grey to dark green/black but once cooked they turn the characteristic pink/orange. This takes about three to five minutes, depending on the size.
Commercially prawns are divided into two types — cold water or tropical. The tropical variety are further categorised commercially according to shell colour: pink, red, brown, striped or tiger are but a few. ‘Green’, when used to describe shrimp or prawns, merely means that it is raw or uncooked.
Most connoisseurs agree that the spinal cord or dark vein along the back of the prawn should be removed before cooking. With fresh prawns it is easy to pull the vein out from the tail end. With frozen prawns it is often necessary to cut along the backs to remove the vein.
Prawns are an excellent source of protein, a good source of omega 3 fatty acids, plus iron, zinc and vitamin E. They are also low in saturated fats.
Crispy baked squid
A low-fat, tasty take on salt and pepper squid.
2 Tbsp water
1 tsp each: smoked paprika, chilli flakes
¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
6 Tbsp finely grated parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
400g frozen squid rings, thawed
Spray rice bran oil
- Preheat the oven to 200C. Line a large baking tray (or two trays) with baking paper.
- Whisk the eggs, water, paprika and chilli flakes in a bowl. Place the breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, salt and black pepper in another bowl.
- Dip the squid rings into the egg mixture then into the crumb mixture to coat evenly. Place on the baking tray. Spray with oil. Bake for 15 minutes. Great served with wasabi mayo or low-salt soy sauce and wasabi as a dipping sauce.
Korean vegetable and prawn pancakes
¾ cup water
1 cup plain flour
2 teaspoons sesame oil
4 spring onions, finely sliced
1 cup each: sliced beans, mung bean sprouts
1 carrot, shredded
250g raw prawns, shelled, deveined and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Canola oil for frying
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp each: sugar, sesame oil
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
- Whisk the eggs and water in a large bowl, until well mixed. Gradually whisk in the flour and oil.
- Add the spring onions, beans, bean sprouts, carrot and prawns and mix well. Season.
- Heat a 20cm non-stick frying pan on medium. Add a teaspoon of canola oil. Ladle about ¼ of the batter into the pan, spreading it out evenly. Pan-fry for about 3 minutes until the base is golden. Flip over and continue to cook until golden and set.
- Remove to a warm platter and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining mixture.
- To serve, cut the pancakes into quarters and serve with the combined dipping sauce ingredients.
These prawns make excellent nibbles or serve them as a main with rice and a salad.
500g large raw prawns
1 cup milk
¼ cup fine cornmeal
¾ cup plain flour or gluten-free flour
1 tsp chilli powder
½ tsp each: baking powder, paprika, salt
¼ tsp each: cayenne pepper, white pepper
Rice bran oil for deep frying
- Shell the prawns and devein. Beat the egg and milk to combine. Sift the dry ingredients then whisk into the egg mixture. Stand for 30 minutes.
- Heat enough oil for deep frying in a small deep saucepan.
- Dip the prawns into the batter and deep fry in batches, until golden. Drain on paper towels.
Squid with mushroom and capsicum
These whole squid tubes are stuffed with a Mediterranean mixture. If the tubes are small you may need four. Passata is a thick, tasty Italian tomato purée.
2 cleaned squid tubes
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 red capsicum, seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
6 medium mushrooms, diced
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
100g prosciutto, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup passata
¼ cup dry white wine
1 Tbsp finely chopped basil
1 tsp sugar
- Wash the squid tubes well. Remove any cartilage from the top of the tubes.
- To prepare the stuffing, heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan. Sauté the onion, until softened. Add the capsicum, garlic and mushrooms and cook, until soft. Add the breadcrumbs, prosciutto and egg. Mix well. Cool.
- Stuff the tubes with the mixture and secure the ends with toothpicks.
- Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the tubes in a small baking dish. Combine the passata, wine and seasonings and pour over the squid. Cover and bake for 30 minutes, until tender.
- To serve, remove the toothpicks, slice into 1cm rounds and layer onto 4 serving plates. Spoon the sauce around the squid.