My love of freshly caught squid is hard to put a price on, and this recipe has a story to it. In a small coastal town in Spain, old men catch baby squid for a Basque chef who cooked this dish for me. He told me these retired fishermen are too frail to go to sea but too wedded to the water to leave it. They spend their days sitting on the wharves and breakwaters watching the fleet come and go. In the hands of this chef their little squid are elevated to another level, very quickly sizzled and served with this slow-cooked onion sauce.
1.2 kg brown onions, peeled and sliced
10 black peppercorns
4 bay leaves
180ml extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
2 tsp sea salt
2kg baby squid (about 18 squid)
5 garlic cloves
handful of parsley, chopped
40ml olive oil
Squid is available at most fishmongers, but if you can't find it go for small calamari. If you can't make pickled beetroot ahead of time, halve the recipe and put the roasted beetroot in a bowl with the pickling mix until you are ready to use it.
Put the onion in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Add the peppercorns, bay leaves, 80mls extra virgin olive oil and half the salt. Cover and cook over a low heat, stirring regularly, for one hour or until the onion has a jam-like consistency.
Meanwhile, to clean the squid, pull the tentacles out of the hoods then the clear cartilage. Peel off and discard the skin. Cut the tentacles off just below the eyes, then rinse the hoods and tentacles. Drain well and place in a bowl.
Place the garlic cloves on a chopping board, sprinkle with remaining salt and finely chop. Add to the squid with 100ml extra virgin olive oil and most of the parsley. Mix well, then leave covered for at least one hour in the fridge.
Heat 40ml olive oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan over high heat until the oil is nearly smoking. Add the squid hoods and tentacles and cook for one minute, then season, turn, cook for another minute and remove from the pan.
Remove bay leaves and peppercorns from onion confit, place a spoonful on each serving plate, stuff the squid tentacles back into the hoods and arrange on top of the onion. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with remaining parsley.
Stored in an airtight container, the leftover onion confit will last in the fridge for two weeks and is good with sausages or homemade burgers.