The simple joys of Greece

17_Naousa-0201Every year for the past four years we have returned to Paros, Greece, for our family holiday, despite some of our more adventurous friends thinking we are boring. Over the winter we mull over a return and in the end we feel it’s just the easiest thing to do, and it works so well: the sea, the sun, the food, the ease of knowing the same house, of being able to run from the front door to the sea in about three seconds.

Then we drive, fly and sail and eventually end up on our little island. And then we sigh and remember the real reason we have come back every year. You can only feel it when you’re pulling into port, but something familiar rises up inside you. It’s the memory of long lazy days by crystal clear water and smiling, helpful sun-beaten faces. These are a people who truly value their visitors and work long days to ensure their guests have the best possible experience.

Their relaxed, seemingly carefree manner should never be confused with a lack of industriousness. They are a passionate, hard-working and extremely friendly people for whom family occupies the centre of their lives.

So while I sit on the porch of our little Greek house by the beach, the most perfect thing to share with you is a recipe for calamari which is part of our everyday fare on this beautiful island.

We have lots of squid gliding up and down the coast of Ireland and as a chef I have used Irish squid regularly in my kitchens. It is available in good fish mongers, but it may be a good idea to order it in advance. If it’s requested a little more, it’s availability might become a little more main stream.

17_Naousa-022Salt and pepper squid: I am not in my home kitchen with a weighing scales for this recipe so it’s a rough one, but you don’t need a formula for this – its oh-so-simple.

Sea salt flakes
Oil for cooking
Lemon for serving

Squid needs none of the prep work that octopus requires. Before cooking, simply clean it out by removing the quill (the long feather-like thing from the inside) and the ink (a little bag of squid ink from the tentacles). These will most likely have been removed by the fishmonger.

Cut the squid into circles – at home they are mostly prepared in thin round circles but in Greece it is more common to have much larger pieces.

Mix two handfuls of flour with one handful of polenta and add lots of sea salt flakes and freshly ground pepper.

Add the squid, a little at a time to the flour and shake off the excess.

Then submerge in hot oil and cook for a couple of minutes, depending on the size (roughly 3-5 minutes). Do not crowd the oil. If you are doing large quantities, cook in batches.

Drain on some kitchen paper and serve as quickly as possible with a squeeze of lemon and a nice, fresh green salad.