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Squid ink


Maureen B. Fant
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I'm translating an Italian pasta-sauce recipe that calls for 2 kg of small "seppie," which are cuttlefish. You are supposed to reserve the ink sacs and use the ink. I am guessing that many North American readers will want to buy the cuttlefish already cleaned and the ink in neat little packages. So I have some questions:

1. What I am finding for sale is called "squid ink", sometimes subtitled "nero di seppia". Walk through any Italian fish market and you will see a distinction made between seppie and calamari (and totani, another kind of squid). So (a) what is in the package, and (b) does it matter?

2. Anybody have a clue how much packaged ink would be needed to approximate the amount from a kilo of small cuttlefish?

Many thanks!

Maureen B. Fant
www.maureenbfant.com

www.elifanttours.com

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To answer b), it really doesn't matter. Even if the flavours did vary slightly, they are so subtle that when used in normal quantities, the difference would be negligable.

To answer your second question, squid ink keeps for a long time, so you could always buy much more than you think you need, and add it until the colour looks good, and use excess for another dish.

Edited by Broken English (log)

James.

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And for what it's worth, my jar of (Spanish) squid ink refers to both 'tinta calamar' and 'nero di seppia' - see below - so I'd treat them interchangeably.

And re amounts, the small squid I cleaned a few nights ago yielded a scant half teaspoon (if that) of ink each, whereas 3 tsp of jarred ink turned a two person serve of paella very black indeed. So I'd guestimate maybe one and a half to two tablespoons for a serve of pasta big enough for 2kg??

2012-01-04 at 22.07.28.jpg

Edited by rarerollingobject (log)
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I've never tried the stuff in the little plastic packets, as I was warned that it tends to be of a poor grade/has an aggressive, almost 'off', fishiness. If you go with the ink in plastic packets, it might be a good idea to first get just one packet, and see how that is, before committing to a bunch.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
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I've neither prepared squid by weight, nor measured the ink yield, but from a squid whose body is 6" or 7" long, the ink sac gives up maybe 1/4tsp. I'd want 2 of those per person, which would make 2tsp to serve four. Estimating small amounts and multiplying up is of course bad practice - it could easily be more like 1/3tsp or nearer 3tsp total, or even further off. In your shoes, I'd want to clean a kilo of squid & check. Especially if I had Italian markets to go and play in.

I'm guessing 2kg of squid in the Italian recipe means 2kg uncleaned weight ? I suspect the meat yield / whole weight from squid is even less than for fillets and whole fish.

It's good to see you taking the trouble to do it right.

Edited by Blether (log)

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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Thanks all. The ink sac seems to hold less than I thought. That is actually good news if the store-bought stuff is nasty -- smaller quantities needed.

I'll see if one of my fish guys at Testaccio will clean me a couple of keys of cuttlefish and leave the sacs intact, or I'll twist the arm of my colleague who actually drafted the Italian of the recipe. The quantity is meant to dress a pound of pasta, so that probably needs to be verified too.

Maureen B. Fant
www.maureenbfant.com

www.elifanttours.com

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Fresh squid ink is extremely perishable, decaying by the hour, according to the Portuguese I knew in the Algarve. It must be used immediately or the flavor turns unpleasant.

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

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I thought Testaccio was mainly butchers -- fish stores too?

Yes, historically Testaccio is all about meat, because of the Mattatoio, the old slaughterhouse, but the market has an entire side devoted to fish vendors. Once they get over the holidays (Befana yet to come), they may be amenable to helping me with my seppia problem.

Maureen B. Fant
www.maureenbfant.com

www.elifanttours.com

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Fresh squid ink is extremely perishable, decaying by the hour, according to the Portuguese I knew in the Algarve. It must be used immediately or the flavor turns unpleasant.

Presumably the clock starts ticking when the sac is broken and the ink released? In this recipe, you clean the seppie and cut them in pieces, leaving the sac intact. then when you toss the seppie pieces in the pan, you break up the sacs and release the ink.

Also, terminology question: why does the Italian refer to cuttlefish ink and the English and Spanish to squid?

Maureen B. Fant
www.maureenbfant.com

www.elifanttours.com

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Cuttlefish and squid are different animals. I'm most familiar with the varites of cuttlefish and squid available in southwestern Europe, and there squid tends to be small (around 2-3 inches) and cuttlefish is quite big (around 7-8 inches, similar in size to the big squid sometimes found in Asian markets).

The taste of the squid/cuttlefish and of the ink is different too. However, if you can't find cuttlefish by all means use squid.

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Cuttlefish and squid are different animals. I'm most familiar with the varites of cuttlefish and squid available in southwestern Europe, and there squid tends to be small (around 2-3 inches) and cuttlefish is quite big (around 7-8 inches, similar in size to the big squid sometimes found in Asian markets).

The taste of the squid/cuttlefish and of the ink is different too. However, if you can't find cuttlefish by all means use squid.

I know they're different animals, hence my confusion that the jars and packets are labeled both squid ink and nero di seppia. Seppia is definitely cuttlefish. Squid is squid. So what's the explanation?

Maureen B. Fant
www.maureenbfant.com

www.elifanttours.com

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And for what it's worth, my jar of (Spanish) squid ink refers to both 'tinta calamar' and 'nero di seppia' - see below - so I'd treat them interchangeably.

And re amounts, the small squid I cleaned a few nights ago yielded a scant half teaspoon (if that) of ink each, whereas 3 tsp of jarred ink turned a two person serve of paella very black indeed.

I remember commenting on how black your paella looked, now I know your secret! I've never seen jars of ink on sale in the UK, only the sachets.

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Isn't it one of those seafood things, with squid used as the market name for both ? My copy of Grigson's Fish Book is still in a packing box, so I can't look up her take just now.

There are even significant differences among squid species - witness the tenderness of yari-iks (spear squid) compared with surume-iks (common squid), that I've posted about before.

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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Isn't it one of those seafood things, with squid used as the market name for both ? My copy of Grigson's Fish Book is still in a packing box, so I can't look up her take just now.

There are even significant differences among squid species - witness the tenderness of yari-iks (spear squid) compared with surume-iks (common squid), that I've posted about before.

That sort of makes sense in a parallel-universe sort of way. But I thought the word "squid" was out of favor because "calamari" sounded less yucky. I suppose "cuttlefish" evokes a parakeet cage and loses to "squid." Isn't there a generic term "inkfish"? or am I thinking of the German for squid?

As for different species, I know only the major Italian ones, calamari and totani and their respective diminutives. And seppie of course, which, in Rome, are traditionally stewed with peas.

So what do I title the recipe: Squid ink, to follow the market, or cuttlefish, to respect the Italian? I think cuttlefish, since the recipe does call for the fresh beast. I will explain the rest in the note.

Maureen B. Fant
www.maureenbfant.com

www.elifanttours.com

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I think cuttlefish, too. Squid is just wrong as a translation, whatever marketers are saying; I'm baffled by the mixed label on the jar.

The only term to cover both would be cephalopod, but that includes octopus, too.

Cuttlefish it will be. Wrong translations have long-since ceased to amaze.

Thanks to all for your insights.

Maureen B. Fant
www.maureenbfant.com

www.elifanttours.com

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Is it for a cookbook, Maureen ? To me, it will depend on the book's style.

Elizabeth David, strict academician that she was, would have used 'cuttlefish', but of course she headed each recipe with the French followed by the English. The English is strictly accurate regardless of market naming or "eww" factor.

If you're going for the more modern, casual approach Squid is not a bad choice. I haven't lived in the UK for 20 years, but as I remember whilst there was 'squid' in the shops from time to time, I never saw "cuttlefish" advertised.

If you go with "cuttlefish" as a title, then the less-experienced cook who relies on recipes - and agrees that strict standards in language are important - may well skip over that recipe with an "oh, can't get cuttlefish here".

In the end, you either do the strict-with-detailed-explanation approach or the more casual one. Depends on the audience and the book's purpose.

inductioncook, the label implies to me that the jar's a mixture of both.

Edited by Blether (log)

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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Is it for a cookbook, Maureen ? To me, it will depend on the book's style.

Elizabeth David, strict academician that she was, would have used 'cuttlefish', but of course she headed each recipe with the French followed by the English. The English is strictly accurate regardless of market naming or "eww" factor.

If you're going for the more modern, casual approach Squid is not a bad choice. I haven't lived in the UK for 20 years, but as I remember whilst there was 'squid' in the shops from time to time, I never saw "cuttlefish" advertised.

If you go with "cuttlefish" as a title, then the less-experienced cook who relies on recipes - and agrees that strict standards in language are important - may well skip over that recipe with an "oh, can't get cuttlefish here".

In the end, you either do the strict-with-detailed-explanation approach or the more casual one. Depends on the audience and the book's purpose.

inductioncook, the label implies to me that the jar's a mixture of both.

Yes, it is for a cookbook, and undoubtedly the final decision will be the editor's based on her experience of exactly the reactions you anticipate. My approach in preparing the manuscript (not a translation but a joint effort with an Italian coauthor) is to give the "color" in the Italian title and let the English subtitle be more prosaic but also more descriptive. That seems more or less what Elizabeth David does in her "Italian Food". I hate it when those cute Italian food names are "translated" and you still have no idea what is in the dish.

Maureen B. Fant
www.maureenbfant.com

www.elifanttours.com

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