from one generation to the next
Squid ink is a curious substance. Used by the squid primarily as a “smoke screen” to escape from predators, it’s dense blackness lends a dramatic colour and subtle flavour of the sea to traditional recipes of Spain and Italy where it is added to both rice dishes and pasta dough.
The squid I cleaned recently to make Indonesian squid curry came with ink sacks intact. Excited by the memory of black paella I’d eaten in Spain, I carefully cut them away from the body and popped them into the freezer for future use.
Preparing to make this dish required some research. I regularly make a delicious traditional style paella, but I suspected a more subtle approach was needed for arroz negro. Claudia Roden to the rescue! Hidden in her tome “The Food of Spain,” is a black rice recipe featuring squid ink, wine, seafood stock and baby squid, a simple tribute to the sea.
The quality of your stock and wine you choose are important with this dish. The squid ink may look dramatic, but the flavour of your arroz negro is dependant on the quality of the supporting ingredients.
Squid ink like beetroot seems to spread itself far and wide in the kitchen, but never fear it cleans up easily with warm soapy water. Rest assured that ink will not stain your hands or cookware!
2 large sacs of squid ink or 2x4g sachets
2 sticks of celery finely chopped
1 heaped teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (pimenton)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 large tomatoes finely chopped
2 spring onions, finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups Calasparra rice
125 mls dry white wine
600 mls seafood stock
200g cleaned squid pieces
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
Squeeze the squid ink from its teardrop shaped sac by laying it on a plate, holding it firmly by the membranes along the sides and running the back of a knife along the length from the wide to the narrow end. Repeat a couple of times to be sure you have extruded it all. Discard the sacs.
Pour a little warm stock onto the plate to dissolve the ink.
Heat the oil in a medium pan, then sauté the celery and spring onion until translucent.
Add the rice, paprika and thyme and continue cooking over a medium heat until the rice is golden.
Add the wine, stir it through the rice, then add the tomatoes, squid ink, stock and garlic.
Thoroughly stir to combine, bring to the boil, cover the pan and reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting and steam the rice for 10 minutes.
Turn off the heat, and allow the pan to rest for a further 10 minutes.
Using a sharp knife, score the inside surface of your squid closely in diagonal criss cross pattern.
Heat a pan, add a small amount of oil and quickly fry the squid for a about 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
Add the parsley and lemon juice to the rice and season to taste with sea salt and pepper. Stir the seasoning through with a fork.
Serve topped with fried squid.