Our Daily Bread

Cut kitchen time, up your cooking game with a squid recipe

Few foods are quicker to turn out than squid—a minute is enough. In days when time is scarce, it’s easy to find and easier to cook

Samar Halarnkar
First Published18 May 2024
There is nothing that cooks faster than squid.
There is nothing that cooks faster than squid.(Istockphoto)

I don’t know about you, but I find that time is an increasingly scarce commodity.

I often think that if I were in government service, I would already have retired—unless I had made it to the 0.1% talented, lucky or connected enough to have become a secretary to the government or director general of police or lieutenant general or whatever. But I never made it to the civil or armed services, so that is a moot point.

Also read: Beets are beating meat on gourmet menus

Instead, as the co-owner of a struggling startup in a profession that the government regards with a jaundiced eye, it’s challenging to keep running in place. Once, a few hundred employees reported to me. These days I struggle to get the sole teenager at home to listen to me.

A decade ago, my plan for the threshold of 60 was to travel, read, and cook my way through the rest of my life.

I now find only the last is a constant.

There’s little time or money to travel and reading is a luxury. As for cooking, I cook because (a) I like what I cook, (b) it’s better, cheaper, and healthier than eating out, and (c) my teenager gets grumpy if I don’t. That’s something, I suppose. The approval of a teenager can be as satisfying as a fat increment.

The act and art of cooking has a hierarchy of time. This column has always been about quick, creative cooking, but I’ve often indulged in some involved, time-consuming recipes and tested my patience—and undoubtedly yours, dear reader.

Last week I realised I was a bit frustrated by what I was eating—lots of vegetables and mostly chicken or fish. Of the three, I have no problem with eating fish every other day, but I realised I had not cooked red meat in a while, including my favourite, slow-cooked pork. The reason was apparent—the lack of time.

So, fish is my mainstay these days. It works very well for the teen, who is supremely content with my 10-minute, mild Goan fish curry, with idiappam, her favourite comfort food after mosranna (curd rice). Sometimes, a rack of ribs grills slowly while I work, but it’s always fish for a quick lunch or dinner.

The focus on fish works for me because fish has always been the centre of life in the Halarnkar kitchen.

My vegetarian Goan grandmother always ate fish and never understood why Kannadigas goggled when she did.

During the summer, we trod warily, as crabs scuttle around my aunt’s house on Bandra’s bandstand in Mumbai, in the days when there were only rocks at land’s end, not Taj Land’s End. There were no promenading crowds because there was no promenade.

We sometimes spent mornings on the rocks prising out kalwa or rock oysters, triumphantly carrying them back to my aunt, who was too gentrified to consider cooking them. But she needed the crabs fresh, so they were allowed to explore her flat during their end of days, until she needed them for the pot.

We cheerfully ate salted mori or shark, and dried prawns or Bombay duck were welcome concessions for us children on vegetarian Thursdays. Tisriya or clams and fresh prawns were Sunday specials.

One fish missing from this bounty of the sea in our home was squid. I’m not sure why. It’s not that we don’t eat squid along the coast. The Konkanis fry or curry squid, and further south in Karnakata where I grew up, koonthal is very popular indeed. I suppose squid was unavailable inland in those days, a delicate fish like Bombay duck. These days delicate fish travel quickly and frozen. The once unimaginable is now mundane.

This week, when I found myself more pressed for time than ever—a function of a greatly heightened news environment thanks to the elections and family illnesses—I thought hard about what I could cook quicker. I knew squid was very quick, but I had never made it before.

I gave it a shot. I am pleased to report that nothing was faster to cook.

Only that morning, I had eaten a masala-laden (but delicious) Kerala thalassery fish. The teen disapproved. “It’s so strong,” she complained, referring to the spice. So, I chose a mild Italian recipe.

The squid itself cooked in literally a minute, the accompanying garlic, chilli, and parsley in another minute. A little garnish of basil and lemon, and presto. She added it to pasta and dinner was done. I’d say two minutes to pat the squid dry, which is important, two minutes to prep, and three minutes cooking time. Seven minutes from prep to table.

I now have a squid game to speed up dinner, so expect to hear more. Oh yes, the picky teen approved.

Lemony squid with chilli, parsley and basil

Serves 2


250g squid rings

Juice of quarter lemon

1 bird-eye or any other red chilli, split

2 tbsp parsley, chopped

3 large cloves of garlic, mined or thinly sliced

1 tbsp basil leaves

Sea salt to taste

2 tbsp olive oil


Pat-dry the squid. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan. Ensure the pan is hot. Saute the squid rings for about a minute. Remove quickly so they do not become rubbery. Add sea salt. In the same pan, add the second tablespoon of olive oil and saute the split red chilli (remove seeds if you want to reduce the heat), garlic and parsley for a minute. Put back the squid and toss together. Remove from flame, mix with lemon juice and garnish with basil.

Our Daily Bread is a column on easy, inventive cooking. Samar Halarnkar is the author of The Married Man’s Guide To Creative Cooking—And Other Dubious Adventures. He posts @samar11 on Twitter.

Also read: The mystique of saffron in a summer lunch

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