baby calamari pan fried with bacon & red pepper, garlic butter, lemon, chilli and thyme

This was created on one of those days when things got tossed around, so please forgive me but there is no accuracy here, and that doesn’t really matter. You will get the gist of it, and will hopefully be inspired by the sensational flavour combinations and ideas that landed up in this dish.

We bought whole baby calamari (about 500gms pack) frozen from the fish monger in Hout Bay. Heads, tentacles and all. If  you can get them already cleaned, even easier.

I was assured that the process of removing the heads and cleaning was a simple one, and that having the tentacles AND the tubes was very important.

I do love tentacles I must say!

what you will need (more or less)

  • 50ogms whole baby calamari (after it was cleaned we were left with about 400gms – so you could just buy this amount of tubes)
  • 125gms of good quality dry cured bacon or prosciutto (we actually used some bacon we had made which we thinly sliced)
  • about 1/2 red bell pepper chopped up or sliced or 1 small red pepper
  • juice of 1 whole lemon
  • thyme – a small handful after stalks removed (about 1 tsp of leaves)
  • olive oil
  • a glug chilli sauce (here we used Laurence’s home made green chilli sauce with chunky bits). You could use any form of chilli sauce here to taste, or a chopped up fresh one or two
  • About a Tbs or two butter with garlic and parsley – or just add the butter, 2 cloves of garlic crushed and 1Tbs of chopped parsley

This is how you make: (more or less)

I wish I had taken pics of the cleaning process as it really is not that complicated. Squeeze the top of the tube tightly with your fingers and rip the head out. Separate (by squeezing) the head from the tentacles and discard with the small spine bone.

So now you are left with a pile of tentacles and tubes which you rinse until all the grey bits are removed. Very easy!

Slice the tube so that it opens out into one flat bit and lightly score the inside flesh in a criss cross pattern. This allows for easier cooking and it also looks so damn pretty.

  • fry the red pepper and bacon until its crispy in olive oil and then set aside. You could also use chorizo instead of bacon
  • fry the calamari tentacles and tubes until they start curling up and are done (it only takes a couple of minutes)
  • Then toss everything back in the pan and add the butter, lemon juice, chilli, thyme and a bit more olive oil
  • Allow some of the juice to thicken and all the flavours to integrate

Serve with crusty bread, a salad or as part of a tapas snack but be warned, there can be a bit of dribbling and lip smacking slurping going on.

Intense flavours, tender calamari, smokey, buttery delicious!



  1. Thank you for the flattering words x

  2. This looks utterly delicious, Sam!!! The pictures are edible!!

  3. Sounds so divine, especially when pairing with a crisp glass of Savignon Blanc and eating under the Frangi tree in your back yard. Come on summer!

  4. Ooh – I am aching inside van die lekkerkry. Luv luv Michael!

  5. Looks really delicious, beautiful and yummy

  6. is it possible to email me your recipes

  7. Hi Shiralee – you can subscribe to receive my recipes via email on my website – in the right hand column scroll up to where it says subscribe.


  8. it was amazing !

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