Squid noodles with shiitake
My first head chef when I was an apprentice – Bill Marchetti – used to tell me stories about how, when he first came to Australia, he would buy the squid off fishermen at the jetty for a dollar a kilo. They used to laugh at him. Yesterday I went to the market and paid $34 for a kilo of uncleaned southern calamari.
When I moved to Tasmania in 2012, to open The Stackings and Franklin, I had become more and more interested in the ethics and sustainability of food. I was moving away from fin fish due to questionable practice and had really pulled away from meat. Even vegetables came under scrutiny, with soil inputs and pest management. It was a bit of a rabbit hole.
Thankfully, I turned to squid. Due to their fast growth rate and short life span, squid stocks replenish relatively quickly in the right conditions. Nothing taken from the ocean or land is truly sustainable, but southern calamari became something I was comfortable eating and representing, which is a pretty luxurious compromise.
This dish came out of trying to think of new things to do with squid. My kitchens have always been intentionally limited by equipment. This technique came out of trying to use the protein as a carb. Slicing the squid like a noodle also opened up how it could take on different flavours, either from the land or the sea. The squid should always taste like squid, that’s why I don’t dress it heavily. But you can easily sit other flavours with it.
Mushrooms are often cooked in a way in which flavour is imparted, where everything soaks into the mushroom. Here, it’s more about what’s extracted from the mushroom. The butter in the mushroom broth was about finding a way to treat it like a pasta sauce so it would stick to the squid.
Hand slicing the squid to order is the least sustainable part of this recipe.
Squid noodles with shiitake
– 300g cleaned southern calamari hoods
– 200g shiitake mushrooms
– 200ml chicken stock
– 150ml mirin
– 80ml light soy sauce
– 80g good-quality butter
– 20g garlic cloves
– 150ml grapeseed or other low-flavour oil
– pinch of salt
– 1 lemon
– 10g young ginger (very finely sliced ribbons)
If you are buying the calamari cleaned from a supplier, place the hood on paper towel prior to grilling. If you are cleaning the calamari yourself, ensure you use minimal water, then place on paper towel to absorb excess.
Grill the hood over an open flame or charcoal. The ideal result here is to toast the surface rather than grill it. On a good, dry heat it will take about four minutes on one side then a further two on the other.
Thinly slice the shiitake mushrooms. In a broad-based pot combine the stock, mirin and soy sauce and bring to the boil. Drop the mushrooms in the liquid and turn the heat off to rest for five minutes or so. Strain the mushrooms and retain the liquid in a pot. Squeeze the mushrooms over a fine strainer until they are mostly dry.
Bring the retained liquid to the boil, then add the butter. Let the mixture boil aggressively and agitate it constantly until the butter begins to mostly emulsify into the stock.
Crush the garlic using a mortar and pestle, then add to a small pot with the grapeseed oil and a pinch of salt. Bring the garlic up to start frying temperature and monitor it closely. When the garlic begins browning lightly, remove it from the heat and let it sit.
Once the calamari is grilled and rested, cut it into fine noodles using a long, sharp knife and a steady hand. Aim for the slices to be about one millimetre wide, place them in a mixing bowl and dress lightly with some of the garlic oil, the zest of half of the lemon and a squeeze of lemon juice. Adjust for salt, taking into account the salt level from the soy in the broth.
Tumble through the shiitake and the ginger once the calamari is dressed. Place a few spoons of the sauce into the bottom of a shallow bowl, then top with the salad.
Soft herbs and leaves such as basil or pea shoots can happily be integrated into this salad to form a more complete dish.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Mar 31, 2018 as "The squids are all right". Subscribe here.