I wouldn’t like to say how often this is my supper and, indeed, lunch the next day when I eat it cold with a sprinkling of capers. For, although it does indeed serve two, I love it too much to keep it for company. It is, frankly, absurd how quick and easy it is to make. And yet it has such depth and complexity of flavor: the squid brings with it the briny kiss of the sea; the smokiness of the paprika, the heat of the chile and the hit of the garlic give it a gutsiness that marries so well with the smooth, creamy beans. I adore the Spanish judión beans, which are soft, thin-skinned, extra-large butter beans, though you can, of course, use regular canned butter beans, or soak and cook dried butter beans yourself.
Indeed, feel free to use whichever beans you want; this is a dish, anyway, that lends itself to easy variation. You could make it with shrimp in place of the squid, or if you leave out the seafood element altogether, you have yourself the most elegant, upmarket and uplifting take on baked beans you could imagine.
Finally, without wanting to take your focus away from the particular pleasure of this simple but sublime supper just as it is, it’s only fair to tell you that you can make another quickfire, killer meal, by replacing the jar of judión beans with a jar of chickpeas, and the squid with 11⁄2 pounds of clams or mussels. Prepare the clams or mussels and, once the beans are cooked, proceed as if for the squid, but add the sherry (I wouldn’t substitute with lemon juice here) to the hot pan along with the soaked and drained shellfish, and clamp on the lid.
10–12 ounces squid (cleaned weight)
2 tablespoons Amontillado or other dry sherry (or use 2 tablespoons of juice from the lemon, below)
1 x 25-ounce jar of Spanish judión beans or 2 x 14-ounce cans of butter beans
3 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, and more to serve
4 fat cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon plus 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt or koshersalt (or 8 teaspoon fine sea salt)
1. Slice the tubes of squid to open them out, and then cut into bite- sized pieces. If the tentacles are in large clumps, halve them. Transfer the squid to a small dish, spoon over the sherry, and mix well. If you don’t want to use sherry, then by all means substitute with lemon juice, but zest the lemon first with a fine grater held over a small plate. Leave the squid while you get on with the beans.
2. Empty the contents of your jar or cans of beans into a colander, rinse thoroughly with cold water from the tap, then drain (it doesn’t matter if there’s still some water clinging to them) and tip into a serving dish or shallow bowl big enough to fit them and the squid in later, and bring over to the stove.
3. Pour the 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil into a wok-like pan (or wide, shallow braiser) that comes with a lid and, if you haven’t already zested the lemon, finely grate in the zest now, and peel then mince or grate in the garlic. Add the 1⁄2 teaspoon each of red pepper flakes and sweet smoked paprika, and warm over gentle heat, stirring most of the time, for about a minute or until the oil starts sizzling aromatically.
4. Spoon in the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for another minute and then tip in the beans (along with a couple of tablespoons of the water that’s collected in the dish) and stir them into the pan, turning them in the fiery red oil very, very gently. If you have drained your beans too efficiently, you may need to get your couple of tablespoons of water from the tap. Sprinkle in the salt, give a final gentle stir (the beans out of the jar are divinely soft, and you don’t want to squish them). Turn the heat up just a smidgeon, clamp on the lid, and leave to cook for 3 minutes, by which time they should be warmed through.
5. Once the beans are hot, tip them back into the serving dish, and let them wait there by the stove, ready to be united with the squid.
6. Pour the remaining 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil into the pan, add the 1⁄4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and turn the heat to high. Squeeze the squid pieces in your hands over the dish they’re in, then drop them into the hot chilified oil and cook, stirring pretty much most of the time, for 3 minutes or until they are just cooked through and opaque. Don’t cook them beyond this point or they’ll get tough. Pour in the sherry (or lemon) and squid juices from the dish, not worrying about the slight gray tinge they might have; even if the squid has been cleaned, you often get a little inkiness.
7. Once this has bubbled up, turn the heat back down to medium- low and scrape the beans out of their bowl into the pan on top of the squid. Stir together gently, and taste to see if it needs any lemon. If you’ve used lemon juice to macerate the squid, I’m sure it won’t, but if you have steeped the squid in sherry you might like to add a tablespoonful at the end. Add more salt if needed, too.
8. Return to the serving dish, drizzle or douse—as you see fit— with extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkle over some sweet smoked paprika and serve immediately.
From Cook, Eat, Repeat: Ingredients, Recipes, and Stories by Nigella Lawson. Copyright 2021 Nigella Lawson. Excerpt by permission of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
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