Squid's in

In the final exclusive extract from his new book 'Fish Etc', our chef Mark Hix casts his net wide to bring you the best in exotic fish dishes from around the world
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Indy Lifestyle Online

I don't know about you but wherever I travel, I can't help but check out the local fish and shellfish. Nowadays, most of us can get hold of the right herbs, spices, vegetables and fish to replicate our holiday memories at home. So, whether it's dancing (live) prawns in a sushi bar in Tokyo, or spicy barbecue crab on the beach in St Lucia, you can never go wrong - just start with good fresh and simple ingredients.

I don't know about you but wherever I travel, I can't help but check out the local fish and shellfish. Nowadays, most of us can get hold of the right herbs, spices, vegetables and fish to replicate our holiday memories at home. So, whether it's dancing (live) prawns in a sushi bar in Tokyo, or spicy barbecue crab on the beach in St Lucia, you can never go wrong - just start with good fresh and simple ingredients.

Grilled squid with chickpeas and pancetta

Serves 4

For this dish, the squid needs to be cleaned, leaving the body tubes whole, with the tentacles cut just above the eyes so they stay attached to each other.

4 medium-sized squid, each about 200g
Vegetable oil, for brushing
8 thin slices of pancetta or smoked streaky bacon
100g rocket, preferably wild

for the chickpea salsa

About 125ml extra virgin olive oil, plus more to dress
2 large shallots, finely chopped
1 small mild red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 red pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
Finely grated zest of half a lime
160g (drained weight) good quality canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2tsp sweet chilli sauce
1tbsp finely chopped mint leaves
1tbsp finely chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the chickpea salsa, heat the olive oil in a saucepan and gently cook the shallots, chilli, pepper and lime zest for a few minutes until soft, but do not allow them to colour. Add the chickpeas, stir well and remove from the heat. Stir in the chilli sauce and fresh herbs, season with salt and pepper and set aside. If the salsa seems a bit dry, dress it with a little more oil.

Preheat a barbecue, griddle or cast-iron frying pan. Make a cut down the centre of each squid and open it out flat. With a sharp knife, score the body in criss-cross fashion with lines about 2cm apart. Season the squid bodies and tentacles with salt and pepper and brush with some vegetable oil.

Meanwhile grill, griddle or fry the pancetta or bacon until it's crisp. Then cook the squid for 2 minutes on each side.

Serve the squid beside a pile of the rocket, with a spoonful of the warm salsa and the pancetta or bacon on top.

Prawns piri piri

Serves 4

We now have a wide range of prawns on offer in most good fishmongers, although many still just offer those black-headed pre-cooked frozen things that give prawns a bad name. Prawns freeze well in their raw state and this allows fishmongers to offer us everything from the giant Mozambiques (which can weigh almost as much as a small lobster) down to various-sized tiger prawns and the tiniest brown shrimps or crevettes grises.

Try to buy the largest prawns that you can find for this - in my experience good frozen ones are reasonably priced in Asian supermarkets. Some say prawns from cold waters have a better flavour, but I have never really been convinced of this; certainly I do know that I prefer sea-water prawns to those from fresh waters.

If you are squeamish about heads on prawns, then remove them or buy headless ones. Shellfish lovers, though, do generally like to enjoy every part of the fish they can.

Piri piri is an Angolan name for a type of small hot chilli, and the term came to be used all over the Portuguese empire for hot dishes, usually of fish and meat, prepared this way.

About 750g-1kg large prawns, preferably still with their heads and shells on
45g (or more to taste) mild red chillies
Half a red pepper, deseeded
4tbsp olive oil
A good pinch of salt
Lemon or lime wedges, to serve

If, like me, you prefer leaving the shells on, with a sharp, serrated knife simply cut into the body along the back of the prawn to reveal the black vein. Rinse the prawns carefully under cold water, running your finger down their backs to remove the black veins, then pat dry on kitchen paper. If you prefer them peeled, simply peel the body shell away, leaving the head and tail attached. In a blender or liquidiser, blend the chillies, red pepper, olive oil and salt until smooth, then mix carefully with the prawns and store in a sealed container in the fridge for a couple of hours at least.

You can either barbecue the prawns or cook them on a griddle pan. Preheat either well. For ease of cooking and turning on a barbecue, it's better to thread the prawns on a metal skewer. Cook the prawns for about 2-3 minutes on each side for medium-sized ones or a couple of minutes more for large. Turn them sooner if they are beginning to burn (or move them to a cooler part of the barbecue). Serve with lemon or lime wedges.

Thai baked fish

Serves 4

After the boom in Thai cooking, many Asian shops and supermarkets in Britain started to stock banana leaves. If you can't find them, greaseproof paper or foil will do. Asian herbs are also easier to find in supermarkets; some even sell prepared packets of Thai herb and spice mix. Fish such as sea bass, grouper and snapper are good with Thai flavours, but you can use most luxury fish - or even humble ones such as grey mullet - for this.

1tbsp light (not toasted) sesame oil
1 small mild chilli, deseeded and roughly chopped
1 lemongrass stalk, peeled and the bulbous end roughly chopped
20g galangal or root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 lime leaves, roughly chopped
1/2tsp ground cumin
10g coriander leaves
20g Thai basil
4 fish fillets (see above), each about 200g
1 banana leaf, about 1 metre in size

for the dipping sauce

1tbsp sesame oil
1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1tbsp finely chopped galangal or root ginger
1tbsp finely chopped lemongrass
2 lime leaves
1 garlic clove, crushed
3tbsp soy sauce

for the fragrant rice

2 lemongrass stalks, bulbous ends crushed
8 lime leaves
Salt
225g basmati rice, rinsed well in cold water

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Then make the dipping sauce. Heat the sesame oil in a pan and fry the chilli, galangal, lemongrass, lime leaves and garlic gently for 1 minute to soften them and release their flavours. Add the soy sauce, bring to the boil, then allow to cool and pour into a bowl or, ideally, individual dipping-sauce dishes.

Now make the fragrant rice. Cook the lemongrass with the lime leaves in about a litre of simmering salted water for 10 minutes. Add the rice and simmer for 10-12 minutes more until it is just cooked. Drain in a sieve, then return to the pan, cover with a lid and let it stand for 10 minutes before serving. This will help it become nice and fluffy.

While the rice is cooking, prepare the fish. Heat the sesame oil in a pan and gently cook the chopped chilli, lemongrass, galangal, garlic, lime leaves and ground cumin for a couple of minutes until the aromatics are soft. Tip the pan's contents into a food processor with the coriander and Thai basil, together with a couple of tablespoons of water, and blend to a paste. Spread this on the fish fillets and wrap each one in a piece of banana leaf like a parcel, folding the leaf so the edges join beneath the fillet. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the tip of a skewer inserted into the centre of a parcel comes out hot.

Place a fish parcel on each plate with a pot of the dipping sauce. Serve the rice in individual bowls or in a large bowl to be passed around.

Steamed razor clams with chorizo and broad beans

Serves 4

Razor clams are an odd kind of shellfish not often seen on the fishmonger's slab. I first tried them in Spain, cooked very simply, and I've since discovered that simply is the only way to prepare these molluscs. It's important to use the soft cooking type of chorizo for this, as opposed to the hard dry sausage that is sliced and eaten cold.

1kg live razor clams
1/2 glass of dry white wine
A few sprigs of thyme
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1tsp salt
1tbsp chopped parsley, reserving the stalks
250g broad beans, shelled
4tbsp olive oil
115g cooking chorizo, sliced to the thickness of a coin
60g butter
Pepper

Rinse the razor clams well in cold, running water for 10 minutes, discarding any that don't close when handled. Put them in a pot with the wine, thyme, garlic, salt and parsley stalks. Cover and cook over a high heat for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until all the shells have opened. Drain in a colander and leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 150C/gas 2. Carefully remove the clams from the shells, keeping the shell intact (discard any that haven't opened). Cut away the central, dark, intestinal sac and discard. Cut each clam into 4 or 5 pieces, place back in the shell and arrange the shells on a baking tray. Keep warm in the low oven.

Meanwhile, cook the shelled broad beans in boiling salted water for 2 minutes, then drain in a colander. Heat the olive oil in a pan and cook the chorizo on a low heat for 1-2 minutes. Add the broad beans, butter and chopped parsley, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Put the clams in their shells on warmed serving plates and spoon the chorizo mixture over.

Steamed scallops and tiger prawns with black bean sauce

Serves 4 as a starter

There is something satisfying about serving scallops in their natural state instead of using the shells for ashtrays. Scallops can be a bit tricky to open, especially when really fresh - which, of course, they should be. So I recommend you ask your fishmonger to open them and give them a bit of a clean for you.

4 large or 8 medium headless raw tiger prawns, deveined and shelled, leaving the tail on
4 large scallops or 8 medium ones, cleaned in the cupped half-shell
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
A good handful of well-cleaned seaweed (if available)

for the dressing

2tbsp Chinese fermented black beans, soaked in warm water for an hour, then drained
3 spring onions, thinly sliced
1/2tbsp finely grated root ginger
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1tbsp chopped coriander
1tbsp rice wine
1tbsp light soy sauce
1tbsp groundnut or sunflower oil

First make the dressing by mixing all of the ingredients together. Put a tiger prawn into the shell with each scallop, season with salt and pepper, and steam for 4-5 minutes in a steamer, or you can use a roasting tray containing a couple of centimetres of boiling water and covered with a lid or foil set on the hob. Place the shells on a little seaweed, if you can get it, to stop them wobbling around, then spoon over the dressing to serve.

Fish tagine

Serves 4

Moroccan food is still relatively unknown here and for that reason often misinterpreted. The food is not so spicy and generally quite light, unless you fill yourself up with couscous, that is. Spicy shouldn't always mean hot, and subtle spices like fennel and saffron give a delicate fragrance to tagines, especially of fish. If you have a conical tagine dish, this can be cooked - or at least finished - and served in it.

1kg monkfish or huss on the bone, skinned and cut into 3cm slices
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Flour, for dusting
Vegetable oil, for frying
1tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1tbsp finely chopped root ginger
1tsp ground cumin
1/2tsp paprika
1/2tsp crushed fennel seeds
A good pinch of saffron strands
4 tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and roughly diced
1tsp tomato purée
1 litre fish stock (or a good-quality fish stock cube dissolved in 1 litre of hot water)
1 large fennel bulb, cored and quartered
1 preserved lemon, halved
1tbsp chopped coriander

Season the fish pieces and lightly flour them. Heat some vegetable oil in a non-stick or heavy frying pan and sauté them for 2-3 minutes on each side until lightly coloured. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a heavy-based frying pan. Stir in the onions, garlic, chilli, ginger and spices. Cover and cook gently for 7-8 minutes until soft. Add the tomatoes, tomato purée and stock, season with salt and pepper, and simmer for 30 minutes. Then add the fennel and simmer gently for 30-35 minutes more, until the fennel is tender.

Add the fish, preserved lemon and coriander to the sauce and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.

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