Tuesday, 9 December 2008

squid ink risotto

My first experience with a squid ink risotto was age 15 when my mother ordered it at restaurant in Venice. Her mouth and teeth turned a terrible black and I just knew I had to taste it. Of course it was delicious and so I have ordered squid ink dishes in good restaurants ever since.

Ordering it at a restaurant is one thing, but cooking with squid ink has always daunted me. That’s why I made it one of my 2008 food challenges.

I had always dreamt of making squid ink risotto cakes topped with bright red tomatoes and white calamari (the colour contrast excites me) so I needed to start with the basics: squid ink risotto.

This recipe comes from Philippe Mouchel, a French chef with a restaurant in Melbourne. I liked this recipe because it stuck to the tenets of risotto making, which is really well explained by Giorgio Locatelli in his book Made in Italy.

The stages are as follows:
soffritto – the base of butter and ingredients such as onions, garlic and leeks
tostatura – toasting the rice in the soffritto to ensure even cooking
mantecatura – once the rice has been cooked through gradual absorption, the last stage is to beat in butter and cheese

The risotto should not be a stiff mass but be soft and ripple like waves (all’onda).

Although Mouchel recommended Arborio, I switched to the elegant Carnaroli because I learnt it’s best for simple risotto recipes without many ingredients, which suits this squid ink risotto.

I was proud of my results because the risotto was smooth and silky, and yet the rice grains were still delicately al dente.

It was a triumph!

When I added the squid ink, the risotto turned a terrible grey with tiny white rice grains popping through the muck. I panicked and thought it was going to turn out to be a disaster, but as the heat melted through the ink it somehow intensified and turned a beautiful black.

It really was a delicious recipe, which I would definitely cook again. I imagine it would be a stunning conversation starter at a dinner party.

Risotto al Nero di Seppia (Squid Ink Risotto)

Based on a recipe by
Philippe Mouchel. Serves 4. 


1 tablespoon (20ml) squid ink
3 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf
250g Carnaroli rice
250ml white wine
800ml chicken stock
Olive oil, for cooking
Salt and pepper, for seasoning
70g butter
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot, extra
125ml white wine vinegar
Grilled octopus, garnish
Baby basil leaves, garnish


1. In a large saucepan sweat the shallots and garlic in olive oil over a low heat until shallots become transparent.

2. Add rice and continue to cook stirring until rice is transparent.

3. Add wine deglazing pan and reduce.

4. Heat stock to boiling point and then add enough to just cover the rice and stir.

5. At this point also add the bay leaf. Continuing to stir over a medium heat gradually add the stock ladle by ladle so rice is absorbing the liquid.

6. The rice should take about 18 minutes to cook and at the 14 minute mark add squid ink.

7. In the meantime, make the acid butter by combining the extra shallot and vinegar over a medium heat then reduce by half. Stir the butter into the hot vinegar.

8. Once the rice reaches a soft texture (the rice should be soft but still holding its shape) take off heat and beat in acid butter. Season with salt and pepper if necessary.

9. Serve risotto on flat warm plates or bowls, garnished with grilled octopus or calamari and fresh baby basil leaves.



  1. Wow! I would be too scared to cook something like this at home! Where in Sydney did you get the squid ink?

  2. Niiicee looks really tasty yummm :) I am scared of trying risotto haha but this is so temptinngg

  3. Anna, the dish is beautiful, elegant. The risotto looks like caviar.

  4. Hello Ana,
    I love your recipes and your enthusiasm and I have tagged you; these the rules:
    1. Link to the person who tagged you.
    2. Post the rules on your blog.
    3. Write six random things about yourself.
    4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
    5. Let each person know they've been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
    6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

    Id' love this tag to go round the world!
    Enjoy, Laura

  5. This is a dish I would definitely like to try but I did not understand where you get the squid ink from.

  6. thanks for all the compliments!

    i bought the squid ink from the fish markets, but some delis sell sachets too. they're tiny and hard to spot, so you're better off asking places if they stock it.

  7. Ah squid in .. my mum is a chef and i have a vivid memory of me in the kitchen age about 12 with a plate of squid ink pasta. I was being a bit of a tool and when she had her back turned i spun around like a moron and my pile of inky goodnes just slid off the plate in one peice. Heart skips a beat, kid picks up pasta pile complete with dog hair and puts it back on her plate and then has to eat it grit and all (with a nive basil and red onion sauce!!) cute blog

  8. Love the contrast betweeen rice and octopus. Thanks for the interesting recipe :)

  9. oh wow!!! this brings great memories.
    First time I had this was in Croatia...years ago.
    Ever since, I have tried to recreate the same exact taste, with moderate result, but I keep getting closer every time.
    When served, everyone is reserved at first, but will end up loving it once tried.
    great job!!!

  10. Oh gosh, the dish looks strangely delicious.

  11. I would love to make this but how much Squid Ink do I need to use??


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