The River Cafe is a truly wonderful, beautiful and expensive restaurant in west London and, about fifteen years ago, they started publishing cookery books. I have owned two of these equally beautiful books for a long time and I have never, once, cooked anything from either. Even though they seem to contain relatively straightforward recipes, there is something forbidding about them; they use things like bramata polenta (organic polenta flour to you and me), cotechino and cicoria, none of which are particularly common in Britain now, let alone a decade or so ago.
And yet, having eaten there a few times (the cheap lunch menu is amazing value, especially since the food, service and wine are always impeccable) I could never equate these rather uninviting books with the very simple yet lovely Italian peasant food they serve. So I decided to borrow a more recent title from the library to see if it was any more inspiring than its predecessors.
Well, either I’ve changed, or they have, because River Cafe Easy is much more approachable. At times it’s almost too easy (calling grilled T-bone ‘Beef steak Fiorentina’ seems a bit grandiose) but I love the fact that there are almost 100 recipes in it with six ingredients or less. And, yes, I counted. If you have olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, dried chilli and lemons in your kitchen, you’ll be able to make a large proportion of the recipes by adding one or two other ingredients.
Roast squid is the first recipe I decided to try. Squid is fast and easy to cook in most circumstances, but many recipes involve grilling or frying it at the last minute, which means overcooking is always a risk. Roasting it like this gives you a bit more control and it’s ideal if you want to prep it in advance for guests then shove it into the oven when you’re ready to eat. It takes about two minutes to prep, five minutes to cook and three to eat; food doesn’t get faster, easier or better than this.
Roast Squid (adapted from River Cafe Easy)
NB Squids obviously vary in weight; I used a 300g one which would suit one person for lunch with a salad or two for a starter.
You will need:
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
1 dried chilli (per 300g or so of squid)
Sea salt and black pepper
1 lemon, half juiced, half cut into wedges
Fresh or dried oregano (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. If your squid is already prepped, then just wash it and dry it with some kitchen towel. If not, go here for a clear demo of the process then wash it and pat it dry.
2. Crumble up the chilli.
3. Put a tablespoon of olive oil into a roasting dish and heat in the oven until hot.
4. When the oil is hot put the squid into it, turning it to coat both sides in the oil, sprinkle it with the chilli, half a lemon’s worth of juice and the oregano (if using) and some salt and pepper.
5. Roast for about five minutes, checking it’s done after four or so.
6. Serve with some lemon wedges to squeeze over and a dash more oil.