Stuffed Baby Calamari

Kalamar Dolma

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As you’ve gathered by now, we Turks will stuff anything. We love baby calamari because, when cleaned, they form little pouches—just waiting to be filled. To make life more challenging, I decided to fill the pouches with an elaborate stuffing, using other seafood that would either eat or be eaten by calamari.

You may be surprised to see soy sauce among the ingredients here, and yes, it’s not typically Turkish. I first encountered this mixture of cream and soy in the meyhane of my friend Ivgen, in Bodrum, and mistook it for a form of tahini. It turned out Ivgen had successfully brought together the two ends of the spice route.

Ingredients

  • 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) small calamari (about 6–8 cm/2½–3¼ in. each), cleaned
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 100 g ( oz) prawns, peeled
  • 100 g ( oz) firm white flesh fish (such as ling, blue eye trevalla, mahi mahi)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) olive oil
  • 100 g ( oz) rice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 50 g ( oz) butter
  • 50 g ( oz) grated kaşar (or mozzarella)
  • 10 tarragon leaves, chopped
  • 10 mint leaves, chopped

Cream Sauce

  • 50 g ( oz) butter
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 150 ml (5 fl oz) pouring (whipping) cream

Method

We recommend you buy the calamari cleaned, but if you prefer to use whole calamari, remove the tentacles, the cartilage in the middle and the skin, and thoroughly wash the bodies (you can use the tentacles, chopped, as part of the stuffing).

Put 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) of water and the vinegar in a saucepan over high heat and bring to the boil. Add the calamari tubes, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 25 minutes. Scoop the tubes out of the water and place on a board to cool. Reserve the cooking liquid.

Peel and clean the prawns, then finely chop. Check there are no bones in the fish fillets, then finely chop.

Finely slice the garlic. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Wash the rice under cold running water, then add to the pan. Stir for 1 minute to coat the rice with the oil. Add the chopped fish, prawns and the salt and sugar. Stir for 1 minute to combine.

Put 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) of the reserved cooking liquid in a small bowl and stir in the turmeric. Add the turmeric liquid to the rice mixture and cook, covered, for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to rest, with the lid on, until it cools to room temperature.

Finely chop one of the calamari tubes (and the legs, if you’ve kept them) and add to the rice. Stir in the butter, cheese, and the chopped tarragon and mint leaves.

Use a teaspoon to stuff the rice into the remaining calamari tubes (about 2–3 teaspoons per tube). Tightly pack the calamari tubes into a saucepan, with the wide open ends facing upwards. If the calamari seem too loosely packed and are at risk of falling over, put a large (washed) potato in the middle and pack the calamari around it. Pour 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) of the cooking liquid into the pan, so that the liquid comes about two-thirds of the way up the tubes. The tops should be at least 2 cm (¾ in) clear of the liquid. Cover with the lid and simmer for 20 minutes over low heat.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Halve 2 garlic cloves. Add to the pan, increase the heat to medium and cook for 3 minutes. Add the soy sauce and reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the cream and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes, stirring regularly until the mixture starts to bubble. Remove from the heat.

Put 2 tablespoons of the sauce onto each plate. Lift the calamari tubes out of the pan, divide between the plates, sitting them on top of the sauce, and serve.