Grilled squid with sweet and sour alexanders

Serves 4

You may have driven past alexanders on the roadside and thought they were just weeds. They are prolific down near the coast in Kent and I'd guess that there are very few locals who actually cook with them. I suppose they have the look of angelica and can be cooked like celery, though they have a perfumed aroma and taste all of their own – especially the leaves, which on their own tend to be too strong, so I usually just mix a few in with the stems to taste.

500-600g cleaned squid
Vegetable or corn oil for brushing

For the alexanders

250-300g alexanders
3 medium shallots, peeled, halved and finely chopped
3tbsp white wine vinegar
2tsp English mustard
1tbsp tomato ketchup
4tbsp extra-virgin rapeseed oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the stems of the alexanders into 3-4cm lengths then either quarter them lengthways if they are thick or leave the thinner ones whole or just halved lengthways. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the alexanders for 3-5 minutes or until tender, then drain. Meanwhile, simmer the shallots in the vinegar and 3 tablespoons of water until the liquid has reduced by half. Remove from the heat and whisk in the mustard, ketchup and rapeseed oil then season to taste and add more mustard, ketchup or vinegar to taste if required. Mix the warm alexanders with the dressing and leave to sit for about an hour.

To serve, heat a ribbed griddle pan or heavy frying pan. Cut the squid into 4-5cm pieces, season and brush with a little oil. When the griddle pan is almost smoking, cook the squid for about 30-40 seconds on each side. You may need to put another pan on top of the squid as it sometimes curls up during cooking. Toss the squid with the alexanders and serve hot or just warm like a salad.

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