Did you know that 95% of our national calamari catch is exported? (“calamari” is Italian for chokka or squid, and when we cook chokka it is generally referred to as “calamari”).
According to experts, the fishing season for chokka starts towards the end of November and carries on throughout summer and winter. Most of the fishing takes place two kilometers off the Eastern Cape coast, with catches as far south as Agulhas.
Since calamari is listed as a species of seafood that is harvested from a sustainable source and as we are locally consuming only five percent of our national catch, we have to ask whether it is not time for us to start using this delicious gift from the sea more creatively at home.
It could be that most home cooks don’t attempt calamari dishes as they are unsure of what cooking method to follow for best results.
The most important factor to keep in mind is that calamari has to be cooked either very briefly – two to three minutes in a hot pan – or it needs prolonged cooking, preferably covered with sauce in a closed dish in a low-temperature oven.
The simplest way to cook calamari
• Drop the calamari into a saucepan of boiling water that has been flavoured with various herbs – dill or fennel fronds, parsley, a few sprigs of celery, smashed garlic, slices of lemon or a splash of wine, a few peppercorns and a little salt.
• Cook for barely a minute until tender and opaque. Drain.
• Toss with olive oil and lemon juice to use in salads, add to an off-the-shelf tomato pasta sauce or mix with ready-made curry sauce.