Liam Tomlin and his exquisite cookbook Thali inspired this recipe for fried curry salt & pepper squid. Its one of the most vibrant and beautiful cookbooks I’ve ever seen. The recipes come from his acclaimed Cape Town restaurant of the same name under the helm of chef John van Zyl. Both the restaurant and book are born out of Liam’s love for India, and the heady spices and aromas that are the lifeblood of all the recipes have been brought to life by the jaw-droppingly beautiful photography of Micky Hoyle.
As the recipes are created by one of South Africa’s top chefs and are from a sophisticated Indian restaurant, they lean to the more complex side of the spectrum. By this, I mean that all the spices blends are made from scratch, as are all the condiments, sauces, emulsions and infused oils. If you want to get the most out of this book and recreate these exquisitely crafted dishes you will need to go to a little effort. The methodology for each recipe is very clear and well written so you won’t struggle with understanding what to do. Liam has written a few cookbooks, owned a cooking school, heads up a small restaurant empire, so he certainly knows how to give clear instructions.
If you want to learn about the role certain ingredients and dishes play in Indian culture and cuisine, then this book is packed to the brim with in-depth information. Personally, I think it’s worth owning just for its sheer beauty and inspiring ideas, but for the enthusiastic cook, it will be a delicious and spicy adventure.
I dumbed the recipe for this curry salt and pepper squid down a little to make it more user-friendly for the home cook. I didn’t make the curry salt from scratch as it is in the book. I looked at the ratios – which were equal part curry blend to salt and mimicked this with my own concoction. I used 2 different curry blends that I like and then added chilli powder to ramp up the heat. I ground this up with the salt and lime zest and tossed this through the flour and it created a delicious and well-balanced seasoning for the fried squid.
The pineapple chutney is easy to make and I followed the recipe in the book. It makes a little more than you will need for the squid.
I used a baby squid tentacle only which was all I could get at my fishmonger on the day, but frankly, I prefer this anyway. They have a nice chewy bite and very crispy edges.
- 400gm pineapple, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
- 175ml freshly squeezed lime juice
- 80gm sugar
- 1 tsp chilli powder (Kashmiri if you can get this)
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
Curry salt & pepper squid
- 500gm baby squid/tentacles (or a mix of both)
- 100gm plain flour
- 5 tsp of your favourite curry blend
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- 6 tsp sea salt such as Maldon
- Finely grated zest of 1/2 lime
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Extra lemon or lime wedges to serve
To make the chutney place all the ingredients in a heavy based pot and cook over medium heat for about 45 – 60 minutes. Cook until the chutney thickens and becomes a thick pulp. Season to taste, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
If you are using whole baby squid, pull off the tentacles and remove the gut and ink sack and hard inner cartilage. Rinse under cool water and then drain. Cut the squid into equal sizes. Since I used only tentacles, I cut the larger ones in half.
To make the salt, use a pestle and mortar and grind up the spices, salt and lime zest together to get it well mixed. Keep about 1 tsp aside to use for seasoning the cooked squid. Toss the remainder through the flour in a bowl.
In a large pot or wok suitable for deep-frying, heat a decent amount of oil. You want enough to properly deep fry the squid. When the oil has reached 180C, take your first batch of squid and shake off any excess flour. Fry for about 1 ½ – 2 minutes until golden and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Repeat with the remaining 1 – 2 batches.
Sprinkle some of the curry salt mix over the cooked squid and serve immediately with the pineapple chutney on the side.
Thali the cookbook can be purchased at any of Liam’s restaurants:
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