All at sea
In 1976 the New Zealand navy escorted a tatty looking Taiwanese boat called the Kin Nan into Port Taranaki.
The squid boat had strayed into our territorial waters and been sprayed across its bow with gunfire from one our now defunct squadron of Skyhawks. As it turned out that was the only ammo the jets ever fired "in anger".
The incident made world headlines for a day or two but it took a month to sort out the red tape before the vessel was released and allowed to sail home.
Until today that was probably the only time I ever had cause to type the word squid in 40 years in journalism.
Egmont Seafoods boss Keith Mawson changed all that. He was too young to remember the drama of the Kin Nan but he does recall the bright lights of the squid boats that dotted our horizon from November through to February back in the 1970s and 80s. And now he's keen to make squid more available from the ESL wholesale shop.
"We generally haven't pushed it but we might need to as there is an increasing demand, especially from our Asian customers," he says.
"All the catch we get is from trawling but those jigging lights on the horizon in the 70s were to attract the squid to the surface. The best time to catch squid is from November through to February but we get some of the arrow species most of the time. The broad species that gets landed goes straight to the Auckland market because it's bigger and reasonably lucrative."
Then Mawson hails his sales and distribution manager, Tony Gillespie, in to talk me through how to prepare a squid for cooking. I give up after he talks about putting your finger in behind something or other so you can pull the guts out and get rid of the tentacles. Then he mentions something about skinning the trunk with the back of a knife. A forlorn look at Mawson draws a big smile.
"Don't worry, we've prepped some for you. All you have to do is follow the instructions of the recipe. Have you ever cooked squid before?"
The answer is a big no but I've eaten plenty and am keen to try. The salt and pepper squid with garlic aioli and caramelised limes recipe is courtesy of Seafood NZ.
My biggest concern is over cooking the squid but like most fish, less is better, and after a brief sizzle it's tried on the guinea pigs who include the neighbours and the sceptical one. All three are impressed and one of the neighbours is no great fish fan.
The secret is obviously following the recipe to the letter.
SALT AND PEPPER SQUID WITH GARLIC AIOLI AND CARAMELISED LIMES
4 tsp salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 green kiwi fruit diced
100g baby rocket leaves
2 limes halved
White sugar for coating
3 egg yolks
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
4 garlic cloves
2 tsp dijon mustard
500ml rice bran oil
Fresh ground pepper to taste
To prepare the squid, remove the end of each tube and cut down one side so that the tubes open out flat. Wash well, then score the inside of each tube to make a diamond effect. Slice squid into strips.
Place the squid into a small bowl and toss with diced kiwifruit. Cover and place in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes, then rinse. This softens the squid, but do try not to leave it for longer than 20 minutes or the squid will become too soft in texture.
To make the aioli:
Place egg yolks, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic and mustard into a food processor and puree at high speed.
Add oil slowly in a fine stream until a mayonnaise type consistency is reached.
Season to taste.
In a large shallow dish, sift together the flours and the salt and pepper. Dip the strips of squid into milk, then into seasoned flour, tossing to coat well. Dust off excess flour.
Place enough oil into a frying pan to shallow fry. Shallow fry the squid strips for a couple of minutes or until golden brown.
Cut limes in half and dip in white sugar. Place a frying pan on a medium heat. Add lime halves cut- side down to the frying pan and cook quickly until caramelised and golden.
Serve squid on a platter or individual serving plates garnished with caramelised limes.
Taranaki Daily News