The wonderful thing about the British weather is that we can confidently define the seasons, from April showers through to rusty autumn leaves and the bare-naked chill of winter. When summer comes around though, anything goes. One minute you’re sitting on a roof terrace hosing back Tinto de Verano like nobody’s business, the next a wave of thick blue-black cloud has moved over, and you’re setting up a brolly over the BBQ. Yes, I have actually done that (the brolly stank so much of smoke that it was unusable afterwards).
There’s a certain element of risk to the British BBQ, then, but that doesn’t mean we have to be boring with our choice of what goes on it. I feel that the image of the sweaty red Brit serving up raw sausages is a little unfair nowadays, but I certainly do see the same dishes on rotation throughout the summer, notably cous cous salads and really bad pulled pork. There’s a dangerous pulled pork obsession gripping the nation, the problem being that no one knows how to cook it properly, and we end up gumming pappy buns of cotton wool textured meat doused in BBQ sauce. Stop.
As much as I adore (properly) slow-cooked meat, there’s a lot to be said for seafood on the grill. Squid is cheap and easy to cook yet, as far as I can tell, rarely used. I love to stuff them, and make many variations on the filling, including one with Thai flavours like lemongrass and lime leaves, and another with chorizo-led Spanish vibes. Here I’ve gone light and fresh with prawns and soft herbs, which matches the salty and crisp Assyrtiko beautifully. It’s the main grape variety from the island of Santorini and I’ve long thought it underrated. Lean and super mineral-y, these wines cry out like gulls for grilled seafood.
The idea when cooking this dish is to channel a mahogany-skinned Greek, expertly tending the BBQ on the white painted terrace of his island home, overlooking the glittering turquoise Aegean.
BBQ Stuffed Squid with Prawns and Herbs (matched with 2014 Assyrtiko, Wild Ferment, Gaia)
8 small squid, cleaned and prepared (if you have the tentacles too you can grill these separately, they will crisp up beautifully, or chop them up and add them to the filling mix)
150g cooked prawns, finely chopped
1 handful chives, finely chopped (save a little for garnish)
1 handful parsley leaves, finely chopped (save a little for garnish)
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1 large clove of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
Zest 1 lemon
Oil, like vegetable or groundnut
Lemon, halved, to serve
You will also need cocktail sticks, for securing the squid.
Mix the prawns, herbs, garlic, lemon zest and some salt and pepper in a bowl. Stuff the mixture into the squid, taking care not to over-stuff (as they will shrink during cooking). Secure each with a cocktail stick.
Rub the squid with oil and season lightly, then grill until golden (this will take around 5 minutes or so on each side, but will depend on the size of the squid).
At the same time, cut the lemon in half and grill until caramelised.
Ensure the squid are piping hot throughout and serve with the caramelised lemons.