‘When I was a kid growing up on the east coast of Scotland, there was always a good fishmonger selling beautiful mussels, clams, razor clams (known as spoot) and, on occasion, squid. Their looks always fascinated me almost as much as the resulting dishes my mother would fashion from them.
Now, a favourite part of the day is talking to our fishmonger. When Ben, of Ben’s Fish on Mersea Island, mentions cockles and squid, this salad always springs to mind. So simple and lovely a dish, it pleases in so many ways: it’s light, fragrant and deliciously piscean, making great news of produce from our coastal waters. It is also very amenable to other lovely sea vegetables and leaves that might be in season, such as samphire and monksbeard and the elusive sea kale, if you know a friendly grower of this remarkable vegetable.
This salad epitomises all that we love about shopping locally for produce, being ever mindful of the seasons, and the ability to use whatever was landed that day by the fisherman and picked that day by our favourite growers and farmers.
The menu at Quo Vadis often, if not always, features endless variations of this salad which we have come to love very much. It always seems to go down very well.’
Warm salad of squid and cockles
Ingredients – serves 4
- 6 handfuls of cockles
- 400g squid, cleaned by a fishmonger
- 50cl of white wine
- 2 small onions
- 1 heart of celery
- 1 small head of fennel
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped finely
- A handful of runner beans, sliced and cooked
- 1 lemon
- 1 bunch of watercress or wild cress (when in season)
- Put the lemon in a pot of water and simmer until tender, which should take roughly 20 minutes.
- In another pot, boil the sliced runner beans until tender, for about five minutes. Then drain and swiftly cool under running water.
- Peel and finely chop the garlic, onions, fennel and heart of celery and add to a pot with the olive oil. Let cook gently until softened, without colouring, for around 20 minutes.
- Place the cockles in a bowl and wash well.
- Slit the squids lengthwise and rinse under the tap to wash away any grit. Use a sharp little knife to score the squid all over and then cut into little strips about 3cms long.
- Drain the cockles and tip into the pot with the cooked vegetables. Add the white wine, up the heat to a boil and cover with a lid until the cockles have steamed open after – this should take about four or five minutes – and remove from the heat.
- Lift the lemon from the pot, cut in half lengthwise, remove and discard the pulp from inside. Chop the peel into very small pieces and add to the pot with a few grinds of pepper and stir well.
- Heat a frying pan. Dress the squid in a little olive oil, salt and pepper and add a small handful of squid to the hot pan and fry for a minute or two only. Tip into the pot. Wipe the pan, then repeat the process until all the squid is cooked.
- In a large bowl, place the watercress and beans along with the cooked cockles, squid and vegetables. Mix swiftly and serve with a few spoonfuls of good olive oil.