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Melt the butter in a casserole dish, then add the onion, thyme and bay leaves with a good grind of black pepper. Gently fry for about 15 mins until the onion is golden and soft. Only at this point stir in the garlic. Turn off the heat and stir in the passata. Leave to stand.
Cut the squid in half lengthways down the cone. Chop each half widthways into 2.5cm/1in ribbons. Cut up the fins and the tentacles to a similar size. Dry off any wetness from the squid with kitchen paper. It must be as dry as possible so it will fry and colour better.
Get a large frying pan and put on a high heat. When the pan is intensely hot, throw in a third of the squid with a small slug of sunflower oil and a generous pinch of salt. Fry hard, stirring occasionally, until well coloured. Tip the squid into the casserole. Repeat with the remaining squid, cooking it in batches twice more, adding more salt and oil with each.
Return the casserole to the heat and add 100ml water. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Add 100ml of the brandy and put the lid on. Simmer very gently for 40 mins, then another 20 mins with the lid slightly off, allowing the juices to reduce a little. When tender, stir in the rest of the brandy and the cream, and serve scattered with parsley.
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