I'm back in a pub kitchen again - a lovely little (tiny!) place called The Bird in Hand in Longashton, Bristol. Only 40 covers so we can really take our time over the food and make it special. I'm going to blog only my own dishes currently on the menu. Fear of plagiarism and professional integrity prevent me from writing about other chefs recipes! If the photos look a little orange or slightly out of focus, please forgive me, they were snatched under the hot lights between checks. Schezuan pepper differs from black pepper in its fragrance, less heat and more floral notes. This method of making a caramel for the sauce is a classic Asian technique and can be varied by adding lemongrass, chill and fish sauce for a Thai version or cucumber, rice vinegar, peanut and herbs for a Vietnamese version. For two generous portions:
Squid - 500g cleaned weight (ask your fishmonger to do this for you)
Egg white - 2 well beaten
Corn flour - 50g
Plain flour - 50g
Schezuan Pepper - 1 tbsp
Vegetable oil for deep frying
Caster sugar 100g
Light soy sauce - 2-3 tbsp
Fresh ginger - 1 tbsp grated
Red chilli - 2, seeds in or out, 1 cut into long stops, the other finely diced
Garlic - 1 clove, crushed
Fresh coriander to serve
Lime wedges to serve
Handful of rocket or other peppery salad leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cut the squid tube into thin rings, less than 1cm and the tentacles in half. Toss into the egg white and set aside. Mix together the flours, the schezuan pepper, 1 tsp black pepper, and 2 tsp of salt and set aside.
To make the caramel sauce, heat the sugar in a pan over a high heat with 3 tbsp water. Don't stir, just shake the pan gently as the sugar begins to melt, bubble, then slowly take on some colour. Be careful as the caramel is extremely hot and burns like hell if it gets on your skin. Watch the caramel like a hawk and when it reaches a dark golden colour and just starts smelling of burnt (not black and smoking!) take off the heat and throw in the soy sauce and 2 tbsp of water to stop the cooking - have this ready in a cup so you can chuck in in one movement. It will bubble like mad but be brave. Add in the chopped chilli, the garlic and ginger, stir well adding a little more water if too thick - it should look like runny honey. Set aside to infuse for 30 mins then strain out the bits (or leave in if you like). Heat a deep fat fryer to its hottest setting (190c) or heat a wok or deep pan 1/3 full of oil to a temperature where a piece of fresh bread fries furiously and browns in a 20 seconds or so.
Drain the squid, toss well in the flour to get a thick even coating and then fry for 2 mins until the coating starts to just colour and is very crispy - don't over cook or the squid will be rubbery. You will need to shake the fryer basket or agitate the squid while frying to ensure it doesn't cook in a single mass. Drain on kitchen paper and pile the drained squid onto a handful of salad leaves, top with fresh coriander, chilli and drizzle with the soy caramel. Serve with wedges of fresh lime.