Stuffed Squid - Spring 2010: Let The Planning Begin Continue Stall!
I'm planning on picking up my Lemon Risotto-Stuffed Squid recipe and running with it, though the idea also occurs that those squid bodies could also be coated in tempura batter and deep-fried. Or maybe just the tentacles as a decoration.

I've mode some random notes on developing it into a complete dinner and started working the ideas.
The story so far...

A Starter
Under Construction
I'd like to develop wasabi prawn crackers with some sort of fishy mousse dip - smoked haddock or salmon perhaps?
Or even go mad with an oyster (or maybe prawn would be more accessible) ice cream?
Round 1
And THEY'RE OFF!

Round 2
Thanks to thecriticalcouple for some interesting ideas courtesy of Martin Wishart:


Squid Ink Sauce
sauce fish
I wanted to redesign the squid ink sauce to avoid using cream (which turns it grey) but still turn out something rich, thick and sticky (and suitable for pesky tarians - so no demi-glace).

Round 1
Rachel Enjoying The Squid Ink
This version used the ink from behind the eyes of two squiddies, plus the body cavity ink sac from the (over-) larger of the two (pretty unusual that - they normally seem to have been frightened enough to use this up when they get trawled up).

The night before I reduced half a cup of Port with half a cup of Madeira and a splash of cognac to make a thick syrup.

Then to make the sauce I started as before frying up shitake mushrooms, then shallots and garlic in foaming butter. Added a glass of white wine, and the squid ink, simmered, then strained with a bit of squeezing (I hadn't made a mussel stock beforehand so none of that to add otherwise I probably wouldn't have added the ink just yet).
Returned to the pot and reduced slightly, then the Port syrup, reduced again, then finally whisked in a knob of butter to enrich before serving.

Absolutely delightful. Thick, syrupy and rich, with a fantastic deep taste. Just what I was after.
I had thought about adding a few drops of liquorice essence, but I really don't think it's necessary
It made enough for two - so the quantities may need adjusting for a dinner party, but I think my work here is done!

Samphire With Spinach
Quite like the idea of matching the yellow and black sauces in the squid with the bright greens of Samphire With Spinach but want something nicer-looking and less runny than just mixing the vegetables.

Round 1 - Spinach Hollandaise
Creamed Spinach With Samphire
Thought I'd try making a sort of Hollandaise sauce around the spinach:
Firstly I dry-fried the 200g of washed spinach in a large pan until it wilted and dried off slightly, then immediately plunged this into cold water (though worrying slightly about the loss of flavour I could see leaking away). When chilled I strained it and squeezed out the excess water and set it aside. This way it stays nice and bright green until I added lemon juice and puréed it with a hand blender. Still looking good at this stage.
However when I set the purée aside until needed it started to go brown, though sticking it in the freezer seemed to slow it down slightly. When I reheated the purée to use in the sauce it also went brown pretty quickly. Basically you need to chill down the spinach immediately to keep its bright colour, but everything you do to it afterwards seems to make it deteriorate. Possibly covering it tightly with cling film might stop this effect.

What I then did was to add the spinach (200g) to 3 egg yolks and heat the mixture in a double boiler, then whisking in some olive oil.
Meanwhile I blanched the (washed and picked over) 200g samphire twice, immediately plunging into cold water inbetween. I think this was just right for the samphire, plus you can do the first blanche much earlier so it's ready to go in one last time when required.
I served by mixing most of the samphire into the spinach, moulding it onto the plate, then piling a little extra samphire on top.

Pretty disappointing - the spinach was very brown, I didn't like the eggy flavour, sure it was thick and sauce-like - not wet at all, and it moulds onto the plate well, but disappointing.
I think it needs trying with just creaming up hot wilted spinach with lemon juice, olive oil and possibly a dollop of yoghurt or sour cream or yellow mustard and serving with the samphire on top...

Round 2 - Spinach purée
Samphire on Creamed Spinach
Wilted about 100g spinach in a large pan with a smear of olive oil, added the juice of half a lemon, heated through, then puréed this up with a hand blender. Next added half a teaspoon of English mustard, a drizzle of olive oil, then rather more walnut oil and blended the lot.

The result was a very tasty, and slightly (but not very) thickened spinach purée that went nicely with the samphire. The only complaint I would have is that adding the oil took the edge off the glorious green colour of the pure spinach purée.
The purée did hold its colour well though, only browning slightly on reheating.

Still need to try out yoghurt or sour cream (or ricotta?).

But actually now I'm thinking that this runny stuff isn't going to work out after all. We're already going to have two fishy sauces, I think that might be more than enough really - what about a spinach soufflé topped with the samphire?
Time to pull out some soufflé recipes - we'll need it to be super-green!

Round 3 - Spinach soufflé
Raw Spinach Souffle Cooked Spinach Souffle Double-Baking Spinach Souffle Double-Baked Spinach Souffle
Decided to try out some individual spinach soufflé's. I thought I'd try double baking them so that it wouldn't matter that they collapse when I remove them from the ramekin to serve under the samphire (and possibly a parmesan crisp) on top.

Washed and de-stalked 140g spinach then dry-fried it, then immediately plunged it in cold water then squeezed it out.
I blended half the spinach with an egg yolk, ½ teaspoon mustard, a tablespoon of olive oil and the juice of ½ lemon.
Meanwhile I made a roux with 1 tablespoon butter, 1 (generous) tablespoon flour and around 75ml milk. This was, admittedly rather thick and I kept adding milk through the process, but I think less flour might have been a better idea - a scant tablespoon perhaps.
I finely chopped the other half of the spinach, added the grated peel of half a lemon, and whisked up the egg white to peak form.
I buttered 3 small(ish) ramekins and coated them with parmesan.
Finally I mixed together the chopped and puréed spinach, whisked up the egg whites, folded a little egg white into the spinach mixture, then folded the lot together.

This filled the 3 ramekins which I baked for 30 minutes at 200°C. The souffleés did rise at this point and their tops were brown, the insides were definitely undercooked.
They collapsed immediately on removal from the oven, but they did turn out easily enough. I double-baked them on a baking tray at 200°C upside down for about 15 minutes until the rose slightly again and began to colour.

Although they were reasonably tasty, I think it would have been better if they'd been properly cooked in the first place (lower temperatures) and they became more leathery than crisp.

On the whole, not too bad, but not really what I'm after. I don't think it would compliment the samphire.

Round 4 - Spinach crisps
Wilted Spinach Crisps Wilted Spinach Biscuits Spinach Pastry

I think I've given up on the soufflé idea - so I've started attacking from a parmesan/spinach crisp angle.
Firstly I tried using wilted, cooled, squeezed chopped spinach, mixed with varying quantities of parmesan. I laid a bed of grated parmesan in the cup of a bun tray, then piled the spinach on top and baked as for parmesan crisps.
The result? Definitely spinachy, but equally definitely not really crispy, more chewy (with some degree of crispy crust from the parmesan bed).

Next I tried making more of a biscuit mixture by rubbing up half-flour/half-butter, then trying various combinations of this pastry, chopped spinach and grated parmesan.
The result? Crispier, but far too biscuity for what I'm after, and difficult to get enough spinach flavour in - and I don't want to go the whole hog and roll actual biscuits (unless as a canapé). As it is, the more biscuity the mixture, the more you need to roll or press the crisp to hold it together.

Round 5 - Spinach oil
Spinach Oil Closeup Fried Spinach Crisps Fried Spinach Biscuits

Moving on, I figured the problem might be the moisture still remaining in the spinach which is preventing the spinach crisps from crisping so I tried gently frying the wilted, squeezed spinach in enough butter/olive oil to cover.
If you fry gently until the colour darkens to a very deep green, the butter foams and the green colouration leaks out into the oil and strain the result (pressing the spinach firmly to extract as much butter as possible), what you get is a delightfully emerald green spinachy oil, and a spinach mush. I chopped the buttery spinach mush up finely ready to use.

Then I tried various crisp/biscuity combinations of the spinach oil, the spinach mush, different flours, Parmesan and even Grana Padano (hoping that it would crisp up like Parmesan but have a less overpowering flavour).
If you have too much spinach oil the crisps taste nice but don't crisp up.
If you don't have enough/any flour the spinach still ends up chewy rather than crisp.
If you have too much flour the result tastes too biscuity.
The more parmesan you use the crispier the biscuits, but also the less obvious the spinach. If you don't have enough parmesan they don't crisp up at all.

The best result, though still a bit meh is to have a layer of grated parmesan, followed by a layer of the spinach with just enough flour mixed in to make a coherent pastry, followed by another layer of parmesan.
This provides a crunchy enough shell, but the spinach is still a bit too chewy for my taste.

Round 5 - Dried spinach
Oven Dried Spinach Various Potions

I think this is about it - I dried a handful of spinach overnight at 190°C and it dried surprisingly well, retaining its colour quite well (for half a day anyway) without completely disintegrating. You can grind it up in a pestle and mortar, and then sprinkle this powder on the parmesan when you are making the crisps. It seems to work pretty well, and I think it's going to be my best shot. I've yet to see if it works better putting this powder underneath the cheese...

Round 6 - Spinach Oil Filo Crisps
Fried File Ball Fried Filo Squares

Well, I don't think the spinach-flavoured parmesan crisps are really working, but I've figured a way of getting something crisp and spinachy.
Working with the knowledge that you get nice crisps if you bake weighted filo pastry in the oven, I tried out deep(ish)-frying sections of filo pastry in spinach oil.
It works pretty well, better I think, than any of the other spinach-flavoured crisps I've tried. You get a crispy result, which takes on the colour and flavour of the oil, so I think that will do. You can cut any shape you like, even screwing the pastry up into a little bundle, but ½" strips seemed to work about best. This is all a bit sensitive to the temperature of the oil, if it's too cool, the pastry will end up too greasy, if it's too hot the oil will burn and turn brown. It seems to be about right when it's bubbling gently and fizzes up when you slide in the pastry. You will probably need to ladle the oil over the cooking pastry, since it doesn't like to sink, and it doesn't take long to cook.
Drain thoroughly on kitchen paper.

I wonder if it would be possible to make up some lemon oil to achieve the same effect?

Parmesan Crisps
Under Construction
I need something crunchy with the dish.
It would be nice too to echo the squid disks with crunchy parmesan tubes, but I'm not sure how to set this up, nor how to combine that with the spinach and samphire -
A crisp ring filled with creamed spinach?
Or sitting on the creamed spinach filled with samphire?
A parmesan shard stuck into the samphire like a wing?
Or just a cookie shape with the samphire sitting on top?

Anyway the basic idea will be to try drying out some scallop corals, then grate parmesan, shape it onto a cookie tray, sprinkle with ground dried scallop coral and bake to a crisp...

Round 1
Grated parmesan and piled it up in metal bun tins, then baked them for about 5 minutes at 190°C (they really need to be baked at this temperature or higher in order to melt the cheese). They collapse into themselves, bubble, then start to darken to a wheat colour. That's the time to remove them.
The come out of the baking tins quite easily when they are hot and pliable (and can be shaped), and they also chip out easily enough when cooled.
They certainly do turn nice and crispy when they've cooled, and stay crispy for hours, though not days.
They are also delicious!

Either I need to incorporate some of these, or figure out a way of combining them with spinach, possibly in some kind of biscuit form.
There's Rick Stein's parmesan biscuits, two versions of a Simon Hopkinson recipe and a cheese meringue recipe to try too, though I don't think that would quite work with the moist spinach. Then again I could consider frying them wrapped in wonton skins or file pastry (Spanakopetes-like).

Round 2
These crisps really need to be baked at 190°C or more in order to melt the cheese.
Sprinkled with pinch of scallop coral powder (and some grated lemon peel) makes a nice addition.

Round 3
Watching the crisps closely - they first bubble furiously with oil, then darken to wheat colour, then stop bubbling so much, then start darkening at the edges, then burn.
The optimal point of readiness seems to be at the point they just stop bubbling. Cook them for much longer and they become too frangible and fall apart when you try to peel them away from the baking tray (using greaseproof paper definitely doesn't help).
Cook them for much less and they don't crisp up properly, remaining chewy

I tried using Gruyère too which also makes decent crisps, but it is a little more tricky to get right, takes a little longer (around 6 minutes) and the cheese produces considerably more oil. It seemed like half Parmesan half Gruyère might be ideal, but that is also tricky to get just right.
The scallop powder seems to work best if put underneath the parmesan, but the lemon peel works best on top where it is less (but not un) likely to burn.
In fact I haven't really figured the best way to add a hint of lemon to the crisps - either the lemon peel burns if it is added from the start, or it tastes bitter if pressed in at the end. Maybe drying the lemon peel would help?

Round 4
A couple of ideas to toss in - the Thyme Supper Club's take on Parmesan Biscuits adding flour and egg whites, or The Big Fat Undertaking's attempt at Heston's Crab Biscuit which looks different, but very approachable.

Something Extra On The Side Sir?
Under Construction
I suppose we still need another side dish, now that I've perfected my samphire with spinach oil. I was thinking about beetroot rosti (nice colour, but needs working on), or possibly Shitake mushrooms with Sambuca, since the mushrooms seemed to go well last time I made the stuffed squid?

A Dessert
Under Construction
No idea!
Rachel suggested/requested something with meringue. It would be good to follow through the lemon theme too. I think we could do something interesting along the lines of a more meringuey Lemon Sponge Surprise soufflé (or Queen of Puddings as Rachel's family calls it).

Alternatively, something like Eton Mess, but with lemon curd or (foamed?) lemon custard instead of strawberries?
Round 1
Wait for it...

Scallop Coral Powder
Under Construction
Method
Separate the corals from your scallops, cut out any black intestinal threads.
Place them on a baking tray (Don't use grease-proof paper - the corals will bond like Evostick - in fact, I'm not sure what they won't bond to - silicon sheets p'raps?) and bake overnight at 80°C in a static (fanless) oven.
If you bake them at 50°C they'll take a lot longer than one night. They are done when they are rock hard.

When you grind up the corals to a fine orange powder it releases a pungent scallop aroma. (or fishfood - as Rachel describes it).
I think they add a pleasant delicacy sprinkled on the parmesan crisps before baking.