Fried calamari with fennel salt and black aioli

Karen Martini
Fried calamari with fennel salt and black aioli makes a dramatic splash.
Fried calamari with fennel salt and black aioli makes a dramatic splash. Photo: Marcel Aucar

Squid ink adds its own distinct savoury, briny flavour, as well as quite a bit of visual drama, to this spicy aioli. You could just use rocket for the salad, but a mix of leaves with peppery and bitter notes adds a nice dimension to the dish.


2 tbsp salt flakes

1 tsp fennel seeds

1.5kg small-medium calamari, cleaned, wings left on

150g plain flour

150g fine semolina

oil for deep frying

a selection of mixed leaves or rocket, to serve

4 lemons, cheeks sliced off, to serve

For black aioli

3 tsp Dijon mustard

1 clove garlic, finely grated

1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika

4 (4g each) sachets squid ink

2 large egg yolks

150ml rice bran oil or other neutral oil

150ml extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 lemon, juiced

green Tabasco sauce


1. For the aioli, put the Dijon, garlic, paprika, squid ink and egg yolks in a food processor or blender and process until combined. Slowly add half the oil while processing. Add the vinegar, half the lemon juice and the remaining oil until you have a thick emulsion. Adjust to taste with the remaining lemon juice. Add a good shake of Tabasco, check the seasoning, and if too thick, mix in a little water.

2. For the fennel salt, finely grind the salt and fennel seeds in a mortar.

3. Slice the calamari hoods into wide tubes. Cut the tentacles in half at the base and trim to manageable lengths.

4. Heat six to seven centimetres of oil in a large pot to 180C (or use a deep fryer).

5. Mix the flour and semolina together, dredge the calamari and shake off excess - only do this immediately before frying.

6. Fry the calamari for about 2 1/2 minutes or until golden and just cooked. Do this in a couple of batches to maintain the oil temperature.

7. Drain briefly on paper towel. Serve immediately on a bed of bitter leaves with a good sprinkling of fennel salt, a dollop of black aioli and a lemon cheek.

Drink: Vermentino