Spicy Thai squid salad with charred cucumber

Zingy and fresh: Thai spicy lime and chilli squid salad.
Zingy and fresh: Thai spicy lime and chilli squid salad. Photo: Marcel Aucar
Dietary
Gluten-free

This is a great starter for a Thai-themed feast, zingy and fresh, and it really gets the tastebuds going. Rather than grilling the squid, I've charred up some tiny cucumbers for that grill flavour and have blanched the squid instead. This method yields a beautifully delicate result, perfect when you can find sparklingly fresh small squid at the market.

Ingredients

600g cleaned (about 1kg whole) small to medium squid, tentacles kept

6 very small Lebanese cucumbers, split lengthways

rice bran oil (or vegetable oil)

2 kaffir lime leaves, very finely sliced

splash of fish sauce (check gluten-free if required)

2 handfuls coriander leaves

Lemongrass dressing

5 bird's eye chillies, finely sliced

3 tbsp finely grated palm sugar

2 garlic cloves

2 stalks lemongrass, finely sliced

2 kaffir lime leaves, very finely sliced

juice of 4 limes

100ml fish sauce (check gluten-free if required)

Method

1. Finely score the inside of the squid tubes with a sharp knife, and cut into bite-sized diamonds. Cut the tentacles into sets of four each and trim to manageable lengths.

2. Bring a large shallow pan of water to a simmer and add four tablespoons of salt for every three litres of water.

3. Blanch the squid in batches for 25 seconds each and then refresh in cold water. Repeat until all the squid is cooked, ensuring that the water comes back to a simmer before cooking the next batch. Drain well and set aside to come up to room temperature.

4. To make the dressing, smash the chilli, sugar, garlic and lemongrass in a mortar. Add the lime leaves and most of the lime juice and fish sauce. Mix and taste. Adjust with the remaining lime juice and fish sauce until balanced.

5. Preheat a griddle plate until extremely hot.

6. Toss the cucumber in a small amount of oil and place, cut-side down, on the hot griddle. Cook until you have good char marks.

7. Toss the cucumber with the shredded lime leaves and a tiny splash of fish sauce and arrange around a serving platter.

8. Add the squid to a bowl with half the dressing and toss well. Pile into the middle of the platter, pouring any of the dressing in the bottom of the bowl over the top. Scatter over the coriander and serve with the remaining dressing on the side.

Tips

1. Use small to medium squid for this, it will have better flavour and be more delicate than the larger ones, which really suits the cooking method.

2. Stack the lime leaves on top of each other and slice lengthways as finely as possible using a super sharp knife – discard the stalk when you get to it.

3. Make sure to score the calamari on the inside surface of the hoods so that it curls up to reveal the scoring pattern.