March is prime time for fresh arrow squid, with catches increasing substantially over the summer and autumn periods. An economical choice, arrow squid is mild in flavour and well suited to the light meals enjoyed at this time of year: salads, stir fries, barbeques, risotto and pasta.

Squid is a popular item on restaurant menus, yet lack of familiarity with cooking techniques means that not nearly enough of us incorporate squid into meals at home. Whole arrow squid should be washed and the quill (bone) and skin removed. The black ink can be retained to flavour and colour dishes, endowing them with a distinctive appearance that tempts taste buds and delights aficionados. Once prepared, the key to tender squid is to cook it very quickly at high heat – between 30 seconds and 2 minutes. Alternatively, cook squid slowly for at least half an hour, roasting or baking it.

The two species of arrow squid found in New Zealand waters are relatively short-lived. They tend to spawn at around one year old, and then die naturally. Their rapid growth means that the aggregate weight of available squid increases through the season. Smaller squid may be preferable for their textural qualities, although the cephalopod’s flesh can be tenderised by pounding it with a food mallet or immersing it in a liquid that contains the enzymes needed to break down protein such as milk, buttermilk, the juice of green pawpaw, pineapple or kiwifruit. The latter is recommended in this simple recipe for Salt and Pepper Squid with Garlic Aioli and Caramelised Limes, courtesy of the Auckland Seafood School. Light and tasty, this dish is bound to be a hit with the whole family.

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