Are there any Freudian practitioners in the house? If so, could I trouble you to turn off the meter for a few minutes and not read too much into the fact that I’ve created two consecutive posts about stuffing things? I’m working on the principle that putting one delicious thing inside another delicious thing is a passport to heaven and I promise it goes no deeper than that. (Of course, this theory doesn’t really have legs. Passionfruit with chicken livers, avocado with cherry jam, melon with ox cheek don’t really appeal unless you’re a tiresomely experimental show-off chef stuck in some kind of 1980s gustatory hell.)
My wonderful sister-in-law Clare is down from Yorkshire for the night and we’ve persuaded our friend Sara Ellen to come over and join us too. It’s hot. The cats are passed out on the terrace, gently baking themselves by the pots of rosemary and mint. The dog is binge drinking his favourite sundowner cocktail: dirty water from a bucket rather than the fresh water in his bowl. I’ve pushed open the doors to the garden to give me a little air as I chop and fry and spoon green-speckled filling into tiny, pearl-fleshed squid.
Squid stuffed with spinach and ricotta
2 tbsps olive oil
A small knob of unsalted butter
2 medium onions, finely chopped
About 1kg of small squid, cleaned, tentacles and wings reserved
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
A good few handfuls of baby spinach (a 250g bag would be perfect)
3 hard-boiled eggs, quite finely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
75g pine nuts, toasted
1x400g tin of tomatoes or 400ml passata
About 125ml white wine
3 tbsps chopped parsley
About half a dozen basil leaves
A few grinds of nutmeg
A good pinch of chilli flakes
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Lemon wedges to serve
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4.
Warm the olive oil and butter in a large frying pan over a medium-low heat and gently sauté the onion until soft and translucent, about 10-15 minutes. While they’re cooking, finely chop the tentacles and wings from the squid. When the onions are done, add the chopped squid and garlic to the pan and sauté for a minute. Next, add the spinach and stir until wilted (you might have to do a handful or so at a time). Put a sieve over a bowl and strain the spinach-squid mixture, reserving the liquid. Let the mixture cool.
In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta, chopped egg, beaten egg and pine nuts. Season well with a good pinch of salt, plenty of pepper, a few grinds of nutmeg and a sprinkling of chilli flakes. Fold in the cooled spinach and squid. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Use a teaspoon to fill the squids’ bodies with the stuffing, taking care not to overfill them as they expand a bit while cooking. Seal each little body with a toothpick. (At this point, they bore a rather striking resemblance to the sheeps’ testicles which are a great favourite at our local Turkish restaurant. I tried not to let this put me off.) Place them in a single layer in a large, ovenproof dish.
Purée the tinned tomatoes and mix them with the reserved liquid from the spinach and the wine. Season well with salt and pepper, a little nutmeg, a pinch of chilli flakes and three or four big leaves of basil, finely chopped. Pour over the stuffed squid, cover with a lid or foil and bake for 45 minutes, removing the cover for the last 10 minutes. Serve sprinkled with basil and with lemon wedges on the side. We ate ours with roasted asparagus and lots of rice to soak up the lovely sauce.