I created this Salt & Pepper Calamari salad recipe whilst camping in the Gulf of Trieste in Italy last summer. The campsite was in Grado, Gorizia and it was located right on the beach with a very well stocked little supermarket selling fresh seafood. Soon after spotting that they had fresh calamari in their seafood fridge, I started obsessing about trying a new recipe. The recipe idea had been forming in my mind whilst lounging on the beach watching the kids dig holes in the sand. My single burner Campingaz stove was not going to thwart my plans. Not even when Calamity insisted that the calamari salad should be the starter to be followed by a seafood risotto. We were in Italy after all. The recipe idea came from various versions of calamari dishes I had eaten over the years and combines the concepts of a few different versions I have loved.
I have subsequently made it a few times for dinner parties and everyone loves it. The added benefit is that it is a very quick and simple starter to make, yet it doesn’t fail to impress.
Serves 2-4 as a starter
Salt & Pepper Calamari
150g Calamari rings
100g Plain Flour
2 tsp Ground Sea salt
2 tsp Coarsely Ground Black Pepper
Oil for frying
250ml Balsamic Vinegar
1 tbsp Brown Sugar
1 bag of Rocket
1 Mango, cut into small cubes
Start with the Balsamic reduction by adding the vinegar and sugar to a pan and bringing to boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the vinegar has reduced by half. Set aside to cool.
You can make the Balsamic reduction in advance and keep it a bottle, preferable one you can squeeze, as the reduction is fairly thick.
Dust the calamari rings with a small amount of the flour (approximately 20g). Add the salt and pepper to the rest of the flour, mix well and spread the flour mix onto a plate. In a separate bowl mix the egg and the milk. Dip the calamari (which has been lightly dusted) into the egg mix and then roll it in the salt and pepper flour mix. Make sure that each piece of Calamari is well coated.
Before cooking the calamari, prepare your plates with a handful of rocket and mango cubes.
I use a frying pan that is wide enough to fit all my calamari without stacking the pieces on top of each other, with about 1cm of oil. Once the oil has heated, spread the calamari out in the pan and fry for a few minutes until the edges look golden and then turn all pieces over and repeat on the other side until each side is golden brown.
Serve the Calamari on top of the mango and rocket salad and drizzle generously with the balsamic vinegar. You should have some balsamic reduction for your next 150g serving, because it’s likely that you’ll want to eat it again the next day, or it allows for you to increase the quantities to serve as a main course salad.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do. It is quite peppery, but I love this combined with the sweetness of the mango and balsamic reduction.