Chef's Recipes

Calamari with lemon, garlic and Ceylon spinach

Australian Gourmet Traveller recipe for calamari with lemon, garlic and Ceylon spinach by George Biron from Sunnybrae.

By George Biron
  • Serves 6
  • 45 mins preparation
  • 15 mins cooking
Calamari with lemon, garlic and Ceylon spinach
Calamari with lemon, garlic and Ceylon spinach

“Ask a fishmonger what the difference is between calamari and squid and he will probably reply, ‘about $15 a kilo’. They are different fish, or, more accurately, different cephalopods. The ‘wings’ on calamari extend along the full length of the body or tube; in squid the ‘wings’ only come about a third of the way. Surprisingly, few recipes differentiate between them. Calamari is simple to cook: it’s always tender and quite forgiving. Squid? Well, you get what you pay for. Seriously fresh calamari straight out of the water is more translucent than an old iMac, but each hour out of the water it gets more opaque. The skin doesn’t always have to be removed. When it’s dusted with spiced flour and fried, you should get a fine crisp coating, not unlike tempura batter. If you order calamari and it’s tough and rubbery, odds are you’ve been squiddled,” says Biron.


  • 1 kg calamari
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • Finely grated rind of 3 lemons, 60ml (¼ cup) lemon juice, plus lemon cheeks to serve
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 125 ml (½ cup) olive oil
  • For dusting: plain flour, seasoned
  • 500 gm Ceylon spinach (see note)
  • 2 baby fennel bulbs, thinly sliced


  • 1
    Pull tentacles from body of calamari (reserve tentacles), carefully remove ink sac from innards (discard innards) and set aside. Clean and halve calamari, leaving wings and skin on. Thickly slice calamari and tentacles and refrigerate until required.
  • 2
    Squeeze ink from ink sacs into a small bowl, add extra-virgin olive oil and 1 tsp lemon juice, season to taste, whisk to combine and set aside.
  • 3
    Pound garlic with a little sea salt in a mortar and pestle and set aside.
  • 4
    Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan over high heat. Dust half the calamari in seasoned flour, shake off excess, then fry, turning occasionally, until golden (5-6 minutes) and drain on absorbent paper. Repeat with remaining oil and calamari. Season calamari with lemon rind, sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper.
  • 5
    Meanwhile, separate spinach leaves from stems and cut stems into bite-sized pieces. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a wide saucepan over high heat, add spinach leaves and stems and fennel, stir occasionally until just wilted (2-3 minutes), add garlic mixture and remaining lemon juice and keep warm.
  • 6
    Drizzle ink dressing onto plates, top with spinach mixture and calamari and serve with lemon cheeks.


Ceylon spinach, also known as Malabar spinach, is available from Asian grocers; if it’s unavailable, substitute spinach or purslane.
This recipe is from the March 2012 issue of
. Drink suggestion by George Biron, Sunnybrae, Birregurra, Vic

  • Author: George Biron