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Barbecued calamari with a green tomato, herb and chilli salsa

Karen Martini
Karen Martini

The aroma of grilled calamari, especially when cooked over real coals, is one of my favourite things. A squeeze of lemon or lime caps it off, but a drizzle of this salsa elevates it further, marrying the charry maritime notes with some heat, spice and plenty of vibrant herbs. The grill just makes it so robust, and it can take up some quite intense flavours and still sing. If you don't have the time for a real fire, this is also excellent on a gas barbecue, or even a super-hot griddle pan – just weigh down and flatten the calamari with a heavy pan or skillet to get better contact.

Barbecued calamari.
Barbecued calamari. Photo: BONNIE SAVAGE


6 small or 4 medium calamari, cleaned, wings attached

extra-virgin olive oil

salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 lemon 

Green tomato salsa

80ml peppery extra-virgin olive oil 

20ml sherry vinegar

2 ripe green tomatoes (such as zebra), finely diced (see tips)

2 green chillies, finely sliced

1 small garlic clove, finely grated 

1 lemon, peeled, segmented and chopped 

2 handfuls mint leaves, finely chopped 

2 handfuls dill fronds, finely chopped 

2 tsp ground cumin 

salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper



1. For the salsa, combine all the ingredients in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and set aside for 15 minutes for the flavours to infuse and mesh.

2. Split the calamari hoods so that they open out flat, and then cut them in half lengthways. Cut the crowns of tentacles in halves, allowing one set for each piece of calamari. Pierce one edge of each calamari piece with a skewer and thread through a couple of times to stop them from curling up when they cook. Attach the tentacles to the ends of the skewers.

3. Heat the barbecue on high – if you have a real fire going, wait until the flames have died out and you have a good bed of hot coals before cooking.

4. Lightly oil the calamari and season with salt and pepper. Grill for about two minutes on each side. 

5. Once cooked, arrange the skewers on a platter and squeeze over the lemon. Drizzle over a little of the salsa and serve with remaining salsa on the side.


1. Ripe red tomatoes would work fine if you can't find ripe green ones.

2. This salsa is also delicious on grilled fish or seared scallops.

3. Try the salsa spooned over an omelette or poached eggs.


Main ingredient:
Squid/Octopus, Tomato, Chilli
Starter/Entree, Finger-food, Side Dish
Barbecue, Dinner Party

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