Sardinian style cuttlefish stew
This recipe was inspired by a beautiful baby octopus stew at the fantastic Olivomare. They specialise in Sardinian seafood - big bold flavours and perfectly cooked fish. Every time I visit I leave feeling euphoric.
Cuttlefish are one of seafood's unrecognised gems. They may look icky and covered in black ink at the fishmonger's, but you can get them cleaned - make sure to keep the tentacles! Gently simmered for an hour, cuttlefish is more tender than octopus, and tastier than squid.
This is one of those dishes that makes you sit back afterwards and just smile.
You can make shellfish stock easily from any shells - I used leftover crayfish shells from a recent feast but prawns, crab, lobster or anything else will do fine. Toast the shells in a saucepan over a medium high with a large knob of butter until they smell delicious then pour over enough cold water to cover the shells and bring the whole lot to the boil. Don’t add any salt. I like to let the shells cool in the stock, then break them up with a wooden spoon and strain the whole lot through a colander and then a very fine metal sieve. Your stock will be a rich ochre colour and smell musky, like a concentrated shellfish bisque without any cream.
Serves two for supper
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cuttlefish, cleaned and cut into large bite sized shapes
½ glass white wine
500ml shellfish stock
1 chilli, split in half
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 tbsp olive oil
Small handful flat leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
What to do
First skin the tomatoes. Cut a cross in the base of each tomato. Keep the cuts as shallow as possible - you want to slice the skin but not the flesh. Bring a saucepan of water to boil, add the tomatoes and turn the heat down to very low. In about 30 seconds or a minute you'll see the skins start to peel away. Remove the tomatoes and put them into a bowl of ice cold water. You should be able to peel off their skins easily. Chop the tomatoes coarsely and set aside.
Combine the minced onion and olive oil in a heavy based saucepan, cover and allow the onion to soften gently over a very low flame for five to ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the onions are translucent and soft, turn the heat up and add the cuttlefish along with some salt and pepper.
You want to sear the cuttlefish until it starts to smell fragrant and delicious, about five minutes or so. Then add the white wine, scrap the sediment from the bottom of the pan and add the stock, tomatoes, chilli and tomato paste. Bring everything to the boil and simmer gently for an hour without a lid, allowing the sauce to reduce.
Finish the stew with a little lemon juice, just enough to make the cuttlefish sauce sparkle, and a scattering of chopped parsley.
Eat in big steaming bowls, with warm crusty bread to mop up the juices.