Preparing and cooking the Common Cuttlefish (Sepia Vermiculata)
Traveling on a tight budget, it is presumed that eating like a king is out of the question, however, with a little patience and some minor throw net skills, it is definitely something that is achievable to get on your plate.
Cuttlefish, in common with their squid and octopus relatives, is one of the most delicious treats the South-African coast has to offer. You can find them in permanently open estuaries and sheltered lagoons (often seen in very shallow water at night). They are found along the whole South African coastline from the Western Cape to Mozambique. The demand for cuttlefish is fairly low; it is used as bait or food by recreational fishers, this makes them plentiful in supply and fairly easy to catch, all you need is a fishing rod with some mullet (any bait will do, they are not fussy eaters) and a net to catch them once you’ve reeled them close as they are hard to hook but will cling onto their prey.
Once caught is is also easy to clean them and prepare them for cooking. You should cut off their head, this will instantly kill them and also prevent them from getting a grip on you with their tentacle and beaks (a very painful experience which I recommend avoiding). If they keep on moving, don’t be freaked out, their bodies do jerk a bit afterwards due to pulses to their nervous system. Once the head is completely removed, you can make an incision on their back and cut out the hard bony bit, called the cuttlebone, and give that to the nearest budgie to sharpen it’s beak on. The final step is to remove the intestines and once you are done you are left with a flobbery bit of rubbery excellence ready to be turned in to a culinary success.
Something to consider when cleaning Cuttlefish is a surface to clean them on, they have a sac of ink that they use to evade predators, this becomes extremely messy and it will stain anything it comes in contact with, we recommend doing it in the water where they are caught.
Now it is time to scout for some ingredients to prepare your fresh catch.
- 4 freshly cleaned Cuttlefish
- 1 Can of beer
- 2 cups of flour
- 2 teaspoons freshly chopped tarragon
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Oil for deep-frying
- Mix the flower Thyme, tarragon salt, and pepper together in a mixing bowl
- Gradually add the beer and stir until you have a smooth mixture much like pancake batter
- Take the Cuttlefish skins and cut them into bite size strips and add them to the batter
- In a pot, add oil until it is about 5cm-7cm deep and heat the oil
NOTE: Correct temperature is important. If the temperature is too low the oil soaks in, making the food soggy and prevents batter adhesion. If the temperature is too high the outside browns before the inside is properly cooked or heated.
- Once the oil is hot, add the coated cuttlefish in batches to ensure they have enough space in the oil to cook
Once they are all cooked, you can place them on paper towels to soak up the extra oiliness. Squeeze some fresh lemon over them for taste and serve with rice or chips.
We served the Cuttlefish with a cabbage and carrot coleslaw and jalapeno poppers.
We highly recommend catching and cooking these delicious creatures.