Every time I pick up an octopus or a squid, I can’t help thinking that something so ugly couldn’t possibly taste so good. But looks can be deceiving and these creepy-looking cephalopods are utterly delicious when cooked in the right way. For me, it’s hard to beat super fresh whole squid grilled over a fierce flame and sprinkled with garlic, parsley, olive oil and sea salt with a wedge of lemon on the side. This is the definition of delicious, effortless Mediterranean food.


Some people might be a little worried about cooking with squid, but the tentacle adventure needn’t be all that scary at all. Just remember that there is one basic rule when cooking with cephalopods- they need to be cooked quickly for a very short time or slowly for a very long time; anything in between and you end up with something very tough and unpleasant.



The Spanish have never been so squeamish when it comes to cooking with squid, and cephalopods are enormously popular throughout the whole of the Iberian Peninsula.  Fried squid (Calamar a la romana) is probably Spain’s favourite tapas dish but there are many other authentic squid, cuttlefish (sepia) and octopus (pulpo) recipes to be found all over this wonderful country.

Octopus means 'eight feet' and it's these feet, or tentacles, which, along with the lower body, are the delicacy of this somewhat unusual looking cephalopod. They are delicious just boiled for 40-45 minutes, sliced and drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with paprika and sea salt.

A few years ago I was extremely pleased to be invited out along the Cantabrian coast to fish for squid. What I hadn’t bargained for is that squid fishing is a nocturnal activity and that we were going to set to sea in a small rowing boat about 2 metres long. Luckily for me, I don’t suffer from seasickness, but as we rowed out to sea I must admit that I felt more than a little queasy and almost panic stricken about the size of the waves. Squid are surface swimmers and almost transparent and invisible to predators, they swim strongly by jetting water through their bodies. The fishermen shine lights on the surface of the water to attract them and cast out a thin line with tiny hooks attached every 20cms and they are dragged along the surface to catch the squid. As they reeled the line back in it was amazing to see how the squid can shoot ink and change colours so dramatically. Catching by hand using a hook and line is painstaking and requires much patience but improves the quality of the squid substantially over a net caught squid. The net caught one will have been crushed and bashed and will have sand inside its skin and body. You therefore have to wash them thoroughly, removing the skin completely, which takes away both flavour and colour. Here in the local fish markets in Mallorca, you should look out for “Calamar de Potera”. It is not a type of squid but one that is caught on a hook and therefore of a much higher quality. Obviously, they are a little more expensive, but they are well worth it.


Preparing fresh squid or cuttlefish is really a simple process and once you’ve done it a couple of times it’s child play. Pull the head and tentacles away from the body. Skin the body and pull out the backbone cartilage that looks like plastic. Cut the tentacles from the head just above the eye and wash both the body and tentacles thoroughly in cold running water. 






Ingredients                  serves 4


2 medium-sized whole squid, cleaned

1 red chilli, finely chopped

8 mint leaves, chopped


For the salad:

12 Piquillo Peppers from the jar, sliced

200g    cooked chickpeas

2tbsp chopped mint

2tbsp capers, rinsed

1tsp preserved lemon, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

4tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Juice of one lemon

A good pinch of “Tap de corti” (paprika from Mallorca)

Sea salt to taste


Mix the Piquillo peppers in a large bowl together with the chickpeas, mint and the capers. Add the rest of the ingredients and refrigerate for 1-2 hours to let all the flavours mingle.


With a sharp knife, slice the squids into large pieces.

Heat a griddle or frying pan until very hot. Season the pieces of squid and place them in the hot pan with a drizzle of olive oil. After 30 seconds the squids should be slightly caramelised. Turn them over and add another drizzle of olive oil, chopped chillies and the mint leaves. Cook for 1 minute and remove them from the pan. Serve with chilled chickpea & piquillo pepper salad.




A simple & delicious cuttlefish recipe from Mallorca


Ingredients:     serves 4


600g    cleaned cuttlefish, cut into small dice

2          Spanish onions, finely chopped

200g    fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped

2          garlic cloves, crushed

2tbsp   tomato puree

20ml    olive oil

30ml    dry white wine

1          small red chilli, finely chopped

2tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped




Heat the olive oil over a gentle heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the chopped onions and sweat without colour until they start to soften. Add the diced cuttlefish, crushed garlic, chilli and pour over the white wine. Cook for 3-4 minutes until all wine has evaporated and add the tomato puree and chopped tomatoes. Season to taste. Cook over a gentle flame for about 20-30 minutes until tender. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve immediately.






Ingredients:             serves 4



2          fresh squid, cleaned and cut into large squares

16        new potatoes, boiled

16        thin slices of chorizo "iberico"           

2          bunches of rocket leaves, cleaned

Pulp of 4 passion fruits

150ml orange juice

150ml olive oil

Sea salt and pepper



To make the passion fruit oil:

Place the passion fruit pulp and orange juice in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer gently and reduce until it just starts to thicken. Pass through a fine sieve and whisk in the olive oil. Season to taste.


Heat a griddle pan. Cut the cooked potatoes in half lengthways. Toss them in a little olive oil and season. Place the potatoes on the grill and mark for 1-2 minutes. Grill the squid for 30 seconds on each side then remove from the heat and add the chorizo slices to warm through. Place all the warm ingredients in a large bowl, add 2 tablespoons of passion fruit oil, rocket leaves and mix well. Drizzle with a little more passion fruit oil and serve.