I pretty much like any form of fried squid whether it's calamari, or the more Asian salt and pepper squid. Actually, forget that, I pretty much like anything that's been fried.
Anyway, I can only remember making calamari once a few years ago. I'm not sure what I put in the batter but it all spat like crazy when it went into the hot oil, and I vaguely recall that most of the coating fell off during the cooking process anyway. After risking life and limb for my dinner, I wasn't keen to repeat the process again. But as salt and pepper squid is one of my favourite Chinese takeaway dishes, I thought I'd try cooking it as a side dish to go with the fish fragrant aubergine I was making too. I'm not sure why, but this time round I wasn't attacked by the squid and frying it was perfectly straight-forward. Perhaps the cornflour was just super effective in absorbing any moisture, but it does mean that this is a dish that I'd be happy to make again.
There isn't much of a recipe, but it's based on this one by Nigella Lawson. She uses baby squid, which is also what I would have done had I been able to buy any. But props to The Sea Tree for a perfectly nice big squid.
Recipe (enough for 4 as a side dish with other things):
I large squid tube, cleaned, scored and cut into small pieces (apart from the tentacles)
Around 1 heaped tsp Sichuan peppercorns
Around 2 heaped tsp regular black peppercorns
Around 2 heaped tsp rock salt
Around 5 tblsp cornflour
1 spring onion, finely chopped (optional)
Quite a lot of sunflower oil, enough for at least a depth of an inch in a deep pan or wok
Crush all the peppercorns and salt in a pestle and mortar, until they are well broken up but not finely ground. Put this seasoning and the cornflour into a plastic freezer or sandwich bag and mix well. Make sure the squid pieces are as dry as possible, and put a handful into the bag of cornflour so that they end up lightly coated. I usually use a wok for deep frying, and you'll need enough oil to ensure that the squid can float in it. Heat the oil until it's hot and shimmering (but not smoking), and gently lower in the first batch of squid. It should only take a minute or so before the squid is cooked and the coating is lightly browned. Carefully take the squid out and drain on some kitchen roll, to absorb any excess oil. Repeat with the rest of the squid. As it takes such a short time to cook, you shouldn't have any problems with the first batch getting cold before the rest are done. Once all the squid is done, sprinkle with the spring onion, and scoff while it's still hot and crispy.