Tagine of baby squid with red pepper and tomato


  • Serves 4 people

"Squid take either two minutes or an hour and two minutes to cook to perfection," writes Paula Wolfert. "For this dish, I prefer the slow method. This tagine is excellent with freshly boiled white rice."

  • 450 gm baby squid (12 pieces), cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces, rinsed and pressed dry in absorbent paper
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 225 gm finely chopped onion
  • 150 gm peeled, cored and diced red capsicum
  • 450 gm red-ripe tomatoes, peeled, diced and drained
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
  • To taste: cayenne pepper
  • Chermoula
  • ¾ tsp cumin seeds, preferably Moroccan
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp saffron water (see note)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
01   To make the chermoula, toast the cumin seeds (not necessary if they are Moroccan) by tossing them in a hot dry pan over a medium heat for about 1 minute. Pound the cumin seeds, garlic and 1 tsp salt to a paste in a mortar. Dilute with the saffron water, then add the spices and olive oil. Toss with the squid, cover and refrigerate.
02   About 1¼ hours before serving, set a 25cm flameproof tagine or cazuela (or a heavy-bottomed straight-sided frying pan or sauté pan) over a medium-low heat. Add the olive oil and warm it, then add the onion and cook until soft (5-6 minutes). Add the red capsicum, cover and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the seasoned squid, raise the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring, until most of the moisture has evaporated.
03   Add the tomatoes, sugar, half the lemon juice and half the coriander, season to taste with sea salt and bring to the boil. Lay a sheet of crumpled wet baking paper directly over the contents of the pan, then cover with a lid. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the squid are tender (about 1 hour). Transfer the hot tagine to a wooden surface or a folded tea towel (to prevent cracking).
04   Correct the seasoning as necessary with the remaining lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Scatter over the remaining coriander and serve.

Note Using saffron in the form of saffron water is economical, and it brings out more of the spice's aroma and flavour than simply adding a few strands to a dish. So do as many Moroccan cooks do, and prepare a small jar of saffron water. Dry ½ tsp crumbled saffron strands in a warm (not hot) pan. Crush again, then soak in 240ml hot water and store in a small jar in the refrigerator. This will keep for up to a week. For longer storage, pour the saffron water into a plastic ice cube tray and freeze into cubes. Once frozen, shake out the cubes and store in a freezer bag. Each cube will be equivalent to 2 tbsp saffron water or a good pinch of dried saffron threads.

The Food of Morocco ($65, hbk) by Paula Wolfert is published by Bloomsbury. This recipe has been reproduced with minor GT style changes.

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