Squid or Octopus Appetizers

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

Appears in

The Ghana Cookbook

By Fran Osseo-Asare and Barbara Baëta

Published 2015

  • About

Octopus and squid are both known as bosra among the Ewe people. While this recipe was not part of the traditional diet, Barbara has adopted classic seasoning and deep-frying techniques to produce what has proven to be one of Flair’s most popular appetizers. This recipe calls for octopus or squid, or a combination, but other firm fish or shrimp could be substituted. There are two ways to prepare this dish: with a batter and without.

When preparing it where I live in North America, only cleaned and prepped baby squid is available. I do not buy the tentacles, just the tubular part of the body. Also, I buy baby octopus which is softer than the octopus in Ghana. Thus, this recipe recommends a pound of the baby squid (but over a pound of the octopus, unless intending to also cook the tentacles). This recipe is the one that convinced my cautious teenage nephew Sam to try (and like) squid and octopus. They complement beer, red or white wine, soda, or juices as an appetizer, or are a savory snack with tea or coffee.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound squid (or substitute a little over 1 pound octopus, or a combination of each)
  • 1 fresh lemon
  • 4 cups vegetable oil like canola for deep-frying

Batter (optional)

  • cups all-purpose flour plus a little extra to dust the squid/octopus before coating
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Heaping ½ teaspoon salt or seasoned salt (or to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon Ground dried red pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 small shrimp-flavored seasoning cube, crushed; or 1 teaspoon fish masala or ground dried shrimp (optional)
  • 2 medium or large eggs
  • ¼ cup evaporated milk

Seasoning Paste

  • 1 heaping teaspoon ground or grated fresh ginger
  • 1 heaping teaspoon ground or grated onion or shallot
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 heaping teaspoon dried ground red pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons salt or seasoned salt (or to taste)
  • 1 small shrimp-flavored seasoning cube, crushed (or substitute 1 teaspoon seasoned salt, fish masala, or ground dried shrimp powder)

Equipment

  • A deep-fryer or heavy pan with a lid

Method

Directions

Prepare the squid/octopus

  1. Cut squid into small strips the long way, about ½ inch wide, and cut the strips in half or thirds. With large octopus, cut them into strips about inches by inches. With baby octopus, simply cut them into small pieces. Add 2 cups of water to a small bowl, and squeeze the lemon juice into the water. Wash the squid/octopus pieces in the liquid, swishing them around well, then shake the excess water off, and place them in a colander lined with paper towels to drain.

Prepare the batter (optional)

  1. Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the baking powder, salt, ground dried red pepper, and crushed seasoning cube or other seasoning option.
  2. Break eggs into a small bowl, and stir with a fork or wire whisk. Add the evaporated milk along with 1 cup of water. Stir, then add to the dry ingredients.
  3. Mix together with a wire whisk, adding more water a tablespoon at a time if necessary to get a thick batter that will stick to the squid/octopus. If the batter becomes too thin, add more flour a tablespoon at a time.

Prepare the seasoning paste

  1. Place the ginger, shallot/onion, and 2 cloves of garlic into a small blender and adding a teaspoon of wter at a time grind thoroughly. (If a mini-blender is not available, crush, grate, or grind all the ingredients and mix them together manually.)
  2. After blending the ingredients, remove any extra water by straining the paste over a bowl and pressing to remove the liquid (save the liquid to use to flavor a gravy for stew). Mix the blended solid ingredients with the dried ground red pepper, salt, and fish seasoning.

Fry the squid

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a deep fryer or deep heavy pan to about 360 degrees F (never fill the pot more than halfway, but make sure there is enough oil to cover the squid/octopus).
  2. Dry the squid/octopus pieces well with paper towels and lightly dust them with flour. Coat them with the seasoning paste.
  3. The seasoned squid pieces can be deep-fried as they are or dipped in the batter and coated before frying. Place them carefully in the hot oil in batches, using a long-handled spoon or tongs and watching out for splatters. As soon as the first batch is in, cover the pot or fryer for a couple of minutes, then remove the lid and stir the pieces to make sure they brown on both sides. When they are nice and crispy, in just a few minutes, remove to a paper-lined colander or tray to drain. Repeat until all are cooked.

To serve

At Flair they often dip the cooked pieces in a Ghanaian tomato gravy and serve them on a skewer like a kebab, alternating the fried octopus with fried squid, sweet bell pepper, tomato, and/or onion slices. They also serve them with little steamed cassava “pancakes” called yakayake. Sometimes, they sprinkle the fried squid or octopus over a large cooked fish as a garnish. In the U.S., I serve the squid and octopus with a hot sauce and a horseradish cocktail sauce. They also go well with Shito, or any hot sauce like sriracha or sambal oelek, or even ketchup.