Saturday, 26 August 2006

calamares rellenos

In my house we have a parsley war.

Jonas likes the curly variety while I lean heavily towards the flat-leaf.

When we decided to start a little herb garden we had to compromise and buy one of each. We planted them in one big pot and eagerly watched them growing, secretly hoping that our own favourite would outgrow the other.

The curly took off and burst with vibrant colour and height. The flat was wimpy, limp and sickly. I was very nervous. Then suddenly the roles reversed and the flat snapped the attention, gained colour and left the curly for dead. In the end the curly was shaded out of existence and flat-leaf parsley rules supreme in our home!

But it’s not nice to gloat.

For this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Kalyn’s Kitchen, I am using my glorious flat-leaf parsley in one of the most delicious recipes I have discovered: stuffed calamari!

I really love calamari and for about 5 years I have always wanted to attempt stuffed calamari in the Spanish style. It worked out perfectly and I was so pleased.

I got the recipe from a book called "Spanish" by Pepita Aris (Hermes House), but I admit I did tinker with it a bit. Below is my own version.

Calamares Rellenos
Based on a recipe by Pepita Aris. Serves 4.
2 large calamari tubes
100g squid tentacles or calamari pieces, chopped finely
50g diced ham
½ cup long grain rice
1 small onion
2 garlic cloves
2 chopped tablespoons parsley (flat leaf)
250ml (1 cup) dry white wine
1 bay leaf
Olive oil
Parsley (flat leaf) for garnish
Tomato Sauce
625ml (2 ½ cups) passata
125ml (½ cup) dry white wine
1 dried chilli, chopped finely
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 onion, chopped finely
Olive oil
1. To make the tomato sauce, heat olive oil in a saucepan. Cook onion, chilli and garlic over a gentle heat until soft. Add passata and wine then cook for 10 -15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Make sure the calamari tubes are clean.
3. In a frying pan heat about 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Add garlic and onion and cook until soft. Add ham and squid pieces and fry for around 5 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and stir in rice and parsley. Season well.
5. Using small skewers or strong toothpicks, seal one end of each calamari tube.
6. Divide the rice mixture and fill each tube. Stitch the ends shut with toothpicks or skewers.
7. Blot the calamari with kitchen paper to dry. Dust lightly with flour then fry in a little olive oil until coloured on all sides.
8. Transfer calamari with spoons to casserole dish lined with some of the tomato sauce. Arrange calamari then top with tomato sauce.
9. Add bay leaf and wine to casserole pot. Cover and simmer for around 30-60 minutes or until rice is cooked through. Make sure to turn calamari if they are not completely submerged in the tomato sauce.
10. Serve sliced into rings and garnished with parsley.
Variation: At step 4, some people add raisins, toasted pine nuts and ½ beaten egg. This adds an additional flavour and the egg binds the ingredients together.

Serve with a chilled rosé!

Parsley (Petroselinum - Umbelliferae) is a biennial herb that comes in two main forms: curly and flat varieties (flat leaf is also known as continental or Italian parsley). The curly variety is used as a garnish and is bitter, while the flat leaf is known to have a stronger flavour due to increased levels of essential oil (apiol).

Apiol is an interesting by-product of parsley, and was used as an effective abortion drug as far back as 370BC when Hippocrates, the father of modern Western medicine, recorded its use. It continued to be used in the West until fairly recently and is still used in the Middle East today.

There is also another type (turnip-rooted or Hamburg parsley) which is grown for its roots. This variety has only been developed in the last two centuries and is akin to salsify and burdock.

It is claimed that parsley is native to the Mediterranean and that it has been cultivated for over 2,000 years: first as a medical herb and then as food.

In Ancient Greece it was sacred and given to victorious athletes or placed on tombs. As it was connected to funerals it was considered bad luck to transplant parsley and due to the symbolism of death it was never given to the elderly.
Using it as a food garnish first came about in Ancient Rome and in Europe it was finally introduced as a food herb during the Middle Ages. It was said that Charlemagne grew parsley on his estates.

The etymology of the English word “parsley” comes from the Greek word “petroselinum” or rock celery. In the Middle Ages this morphed into petrocilium which became petersylinge, persele, persely and finally parsley.

The variety crispum, or curly leaf, was the first cultivated and was recorded by Pliny (23-79 AD). This variety is more commonly used in the UK even though the flat-leaf variety was introduced there first. It is said that the English preferred curly-leaf for its milder flavour and also because flat-leaf parsley looks very similar to an extremely poisonous weed called Fools Parsley (Anthriscus cynapium).

It is believed that parsley is fatal to small birds and fowls, but it is adored by rabbits and sheep who will ravage a parsley bush given half a chance.

Parsley has been famous throughout history as a breath-freshener and now we know this is due to its high levels of chlorophyll (a green photosynthetic pigment found in most plants).

Parsley tea is seen by both Chinese and German herbologists as an aid against high blood pressure and Cherokee Indians believe it strengthens the bladder.

Some of parsley’s volatile oils, such as myristicin, are known to “inhibit tumour formation” in the lungs, although tests thus far have only been conducted on animals. A flavonoid in parsley, luteolin, is an anti-oxidant that has particular benefits for the blood.

Parsley is also a source of vitamin C, beta-carotene (immune system vitamin A converter) and folic acid (cardiovascular vitamin B).

On the negative side, parsley is high in oxalic acid which is a cause of kidney and gallstones as well as prevents the absorption of calcium.

Parsley is best grown in deep pots because it has long taproots. It needs at least 5 hours of sunlight a day and can be harvested as soon as the plant is 15cm tall (6 inches). Leaves can be refrigerated for fresh use or can be frozen (although use without thawing). If fresh parsley is wilted, sprinkle it lightly with some water before putting in the refrigerator.

Be sure to check out Kalyn’s recap and see all the other wonderful recipes whipped up this week!

Parsley sketch courtesy of Wikipedia


  1. I'd love to try a taste of this! It sounds like something I'd like. I have both kinds of parsley in my garden, and I seem to prefer curly for some things and flat for other things.

  2. Gosh, that looks delicious. The picture is wonderful. I have to admit, I only buy flat leaf parsley. It's just a matter of taste, but I prefer it's taste much more than curly parsely. Thanks for all the info on both kinds, by the way!

  3. it is such a great recipe. i couldn't believe how good it tasted.

    the only trick is making sure the rice is properly cooked through while at the same time trying not to burn the tomato and calamari!


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