River Cottage's Seared Squid

Seared Squid Simon Wheeler

I was first introduced to squid in the form of battered and fried calamari dredged through tomato sauce (as were, I am sure, many of us in the Olive Garden generation). For years afterward, I would chew my way through mountains of the greasy stuff, proud to be eating something "weird," but not brave enough to sample any squid that actually looked like, well, squid.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Nick Fisher's Seared Squid from The River Cottage Fish Book will convert even the most die-hard calamari lovers (even the picky 10-year-old version of myself). Seasoned simply with olive oil, garlic, and paprika or sumac, the squid is scored and then seared over blisteringly high heat. As the River Cottage duo says, "If you can be identified as anything more than a blur with a pair of tongs, you're moving too slowly." Indeed, if you're starting with cleaned squid, this appetizer is only moments away.*

*And if you've got whole squid, there are clear step-by-step directions for getting the cephalopod cleaned and ready for cooking.

Why I picked this recipe: Squid are kind of a gateway shellfish. They're not terribly fishy and they're relatively easy to clean and prepare.

What worked: Fast, easy, and fragrant, this was everything I want in a weeknight seafood dish.

What didn't: The recipe doesn't specify to pat the shellfish dry before dressing; be sure to give the squid a once- (or twice-) over with paper towels. Also I found a bit of oil in the pan was needed to keep things from sticking too much.

Suggested tweaks: I prepared the squid using sumac, but just about any ground spice would taste good here. Next time, I'll use smoked paprika.

Reprinted with permission from The River Cottage Fish Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Nick Fisher. Copyright 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc. Available wherever books are sold. All rights reserved.

Recipe Facts

Active: 30 mins
Total: 30 mins
Serves: 4 to 5 servings

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  • 4 to 5 small-medium squid (about 1 1/2 to 2 1/4 pounds in total)

  • 1 large garlic clove, very finely chopped

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon sweet or smoked paprika or sumac, plus 1 teaspoon to finish

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Clean the squid. Set aside the trimmed tentacles. Now cut open the squid pouches,“butterfly,” and score them in a cross-hatch pattern, making sure you don’t cut right through the flesh. Cut each butterflied squid body into 2 or 3 smaller pieces.

  2. Combine the squid pieces, along with the tentacles, in a bowl with the garlic, olive oil, paprika or sumac, and salt and pepper, tossing them together with your hands and making sure lots of the flavorings get trapped in the diamond cuts. Heat a grill, cast-iron griddle, or heavy-bottomed ridged pan until really hot. (If you fear the bars on your grate are too widely set for the tentacles, put a mesh screen on top of the grate.) Lay the pieces of squid on it, diamond side up, and the tentacles as they fall. Let them cook for just 1 minute, then turn them all over. Cook for a minute more. The butterflied squid pieces will want to curl up, so flip them over one more time to encourage them to do so, and allow the curled up pieces to get a final minute of cooking. Total cooking time: 4 minutes max.

  3. Serve immediately, with a few more pinches of paprika or sumac flicked over the squid. On the side: a few dressed, peppery salad leaves, such as arugula, mustard, and baby kale. And, if you want to make a main course out of it, French fries.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
157 Calories
5g Fat
6g Carbs
22g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 5
Amount per serving
Calories 157
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 6%
Saturated Fat 1g 5%
Cholesterol 317mg 106%
Sodium 276mg 12%
Total Carbohydrate 6g 2%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 22g
Vitamin C 7mg 35%
Calcium 54mg 4%
Iron 1mg 7%
Potassium 383mg 8%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)