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Dalmatian wood-grilled calamari with red pepper mayonnaise, parsley and onion salad


Recipe from Nino Zoccali's cookbook The Venetian Republic

PREP TIME 20 minutes, plus 4 hours for marinating the calamari
COOKING TIME 20 minutes

This dish is a wonderful example of classic Dalmatian cooking, where calamari is almost always grilled over coals or wood. Having said that, a barbecue or chargrill will deliver a similar result. For this recipe, it’s important to use an early harvest, high-quality olive oil, which the new wave of boutique producers along the Dalmatian Coast are making lots of nowadays. The herbaceousness and intensity of this style of oil work beautifully with the chariness of the calamari. 

Wood-grilled calamari

500 g (1 lb 2 oz) calamari
125 ml (½ cup) early harvest, high-quality extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced


Red pepper mayonnaise

4 whole red capsicums (peppers)
50 g (scant ¼ cup) Mayonnaise (see below)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Parsley and onion salad

40 g (2 cups) Italian parsley leaves
65g (½ cup) finely sliced red onion
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons lemon juice


To make the wood-grilled calamari, clean the calamari by removing the tentacles from the body, and, with a knife, remove the hard beak from the centre of the head and reserve. With your fingers pull the back bone, ink sac and intestines out of the body, then peel the outer membrane/skin from the calamari and, then wash under cold running water.

Lay the calamari tubes on a chopping board and score with a sharp knife at 2 cm (¾ inch) intervals down the tube. Turn the tubes over and repeat.

Place the calamari, including the reserved tentacles, in a bowl with the olive oil and garlic and marinate for 4 hours.  

To make the red pepper mayonnaise, place the capsicums on a preheated grill or barbecue over high heat and cook on all sides until the outer skin turns completely black. Place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave to cool. Scrape off the blackened skin, cut the capsicums in half and remove the stalk and seeds. Do not wash under water or you will wash away the flavour.

Using a food processor, blend the mayonnaise and red peppers and season with salt and pepper.

Remove the calamari from the marinade and drain well. Season with salt and pepper and cook on a preheated grill or barbecue over high heat for 1 minute. Turn over and cook again for 1 minute. Transfer to a serving plate.

To make the parsley and onion salad, toss together the parsley leaves, red onion, extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and toss again.

Scatter the salad over the calamari and serve with red pepper mayonnaise on the side.

(Makes 1.1 litres - 4½ cups)

PREP TIME: 15 minutes

6 egg yolks
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 pinch salt
100 ml (scant ½ cup) white wine vinegar
1 litre (4 cups) vegetable oil

Place the egg yolks, mustard, salt and vinegar in a mixing bowl and then slowly whisk in the oil to emulsify. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week.

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