A taste of Spain

These dishes are not so much Spanish dishes as dishes inspired by Spain. This is the kind of food I eat at home all the time, especially in warmer weather. I love the intensity of flavour in these recipes but equally I love their freshness and vibrancy.

Grilled calamari with dried black olives, chilli and almonds


Something magical happens when you barbecue calamari - the smell is so evocative it makes me immediately hungry. The trick is to cook it on a hot grill but not for too long, as it will toughen quickly. The dressing is so punchy and vibrant, full of spicy flavours but balanced with acidity and the lusciousness of the goat's curd, which all goes so well with the charred squid.

1 clove of garlic

flaked salt

1 lemon, half the zest and all the juice

30ml sherry vinegar

2 green chillies sliced in rings, seeds in

80ml virgin olive oil plus extra for grilling

120g dried salted black olives, pitted (about 80g pitted weight)

1.2kg whole calamari, once cleaned you should have about 650g of tubes, wings and tentacles (your fishmonger can do this for you or you can buy it cleaned)

Freshly ground black pepper

3 tspn ground cumin

8 tomatoes from recipe far right

100g goat's curd

2 sprigs of mint, picked

60g well-toasted blanched almonds, split in half

1. Preheat griddle pan to smoking hot or use the barbecue. To make the dressing, grate the clove of garlic on a Microplane into a medium bowl, add some salt, half the lemon zest, all the lemon juice, sherry vinegar, green chilli and oil and mix. Allow to sit for 5 minutes then tear the olives and add to the dressing, taste for balance.

2. Leaving the wings attached, cut the hoods of the calamari open by placing your knife inside and slicing open down one edge. Make score marks across the hood on the inside in repetitive lines all the way down. Skewer the hoods lengthways with metal skewers to keep the calamari flat while cooking.

3. Season with salt, pepper and cumin and coat with oil. Grill for 2½ minutes each side and cook the tentacles also for about 5 minutes in total.

4. Once cooked, remove the skewers and slice the calamari, toss in a bowl with a little of the dressing. Transfer calamari to a serving plate, tear some tomatoes and scatter them over the calamari, dollop

with the goat's curd, spoon more dressing and scatter torn mint leaves and almonds over.

Tip: It's worth seeking out dried olives, but you could use black olives instead.

Drink: Albarino.

Serves 6 as a starter

Seared scotch fillet with ricotta, white anchovies and a parsley, radish and shallot salad


This really is one of my favourite ways of eating steak. The charry steak is offset by the richness of the ricotta, the vinegared anchovies and the peppery radish. Make sure to get your griddle pan really hot to get some good colour on the steaks, and if your smoke detector is as sensitive as mine, the barbecue is probably a better bet.

2 x 200g pieces of scotch fillet at room temperature

Flaked salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil for dressing the steak

1 large shallot, sliced finely

2 pinches of castor or brown sugar

2 pinches of cumin powder

1 tbsp sherry vinegar

¼ bunch of continental parsley, picked

6 small radishes, finely sliced

50ml peppery virgin olive oil

6 white anchovies (white anchovies or Boquerones are anchovies that have been preserved in vinegar rather than the more familiar salt cure).

100g fresh ricotta

1. Preheat a griddle plate to smoking hot.

2. Season the steak with salt and pepper and rub with a little oil.

3. In a bowl add the shallot, sugar, cumin and a pinch of salt, mix with your fingers. Allow the shallot to soften for 2 minutes then add the vinegar, parsley, radish and 50ml of oil and toss through.

4. Sear the steak for 2½ minutes on each side to cook medium-rare to medium. Rest for a few minutes.

5. To plate, lay the anchovies over each steak, crumble ricotta on top and serve the parsley salad on the side.

Drink: Mencia - a fragrant, earthy and rose-petal-tinged red from northern Spain.

Serves 2

Slow-roasted tomatoes with paprika and oregano


These tomato gems need a little preparation, but once done they're great to bring a Spanish touch to all sorts of dishes. Tip into a grain salad with herbs and yoghurt or a simple salad of cucumber and lemon juice with seared or baked fish. You can serve the tomatoes at room temperature with a splash of sherry vinegar, some manchego cheese, a few olives and some crusty bread.

2kg ripe Roma tomatoes, hard skin from the stem removed and a cross scored in the stem end

6 cloves of garlic, finely sliced - a mandolin is ideal

½ bunch of fresh oregano, picked and chopped

½ bunch of thyme, picked

4 tspn cumin

3 tspn smoked paprika

150ml virgin olive oil

3 tbsp castor sugar

3 tbsp flaked salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 120C.

2. Line two trays with baking paper.

3. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. In batches, blanch the tomatoes for 1 minute (or until the skin starts to separate from the flesh) then plunge into cold water. Slip the skins off, slice in half and press out and discard about half of the seeds, place in a bowl with the remaining ingredients and toss well to combine.

4. Place tomatoes cut side down on a baking tray, pouring the liquid over the top, and roast for 4 hours. Allow to cool fully on the baking tray to help preserve the shape.

Tip: You can layer the tomatoes in a wide-mouthed jar, pour over a little olive oil blended with vegetable oil (about half-half, which stops the oil solidifying) and pop into the fridge. They will keep for about 3 weeks.

Drink: Young, unoaked tempranillo.

This story A taste of Spain first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.