Panko-coated squid with palm sugar and coriander pesto

This stunning seafood starter shows that pesto knows no bounds. Use Asian flavours like palm sugar, chilli, fish sauce and coriander to make a heady sauce to go with deep-fried squid.


For the palm sugar and coriander pesto
  • 4 tbsp palm sugar
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbsp finely grated fresh root ginger
  • 3 red chillies, finely diced
  • 6 tbsp fish sauce
  • ½ bunch fresh coriander
  • ½ bunch fresh mint
  • 3 limes, zest and juice only
For the panko-coated squid
  • 4 squid
  • 110g/4oz plain flour
  • 2 medium free-range eggs, beaten
  • 110g/4oz Japanese panko breadcrumbs
  • vegetable oil, for deep-fat frying
For the garnish
  • 2 tbsp coriander cress
  • 50g/1¾oz mitzuna leaves
  • 25ml/fl oz rapeseed oil
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges
  • 4 spring onions
  • 1 red chilli, cut into rounds

Preparation method

  1. For the palm sugar and coriander pesto, place all the ingredients in a pestle and mortar and pound to a paste.

  2. For the squid, clean, score and prepare the squid. Pull the tentacles away from the body of the squid and remove the quill. Rinse inside the body of the squid under cold running water. Pull the ears (wing-like flaps) from the body. Pull the purplish skin from the ears and body to leave only the white meat.

  3. Cut the tentacles away from the guts by slicing just below the eyes. Check the centre of the tentacles for the hard beak, which can be discarded. (Discard the guts of the squid or, if desired, retain the ink sack to use in seafood pasta or risotto.)

  4. Either slice the body of the squid into rings, or cut down one side of it, open it out, scrape away any traces of guts left inside the body, then score the inside lightly in a cross-hatch pattern.

  5. Dry off the squid with kitchen roll before cooking.

  6. Prepare a plate of flour, a bowl of the egg and a plate of breadcrumbs.

  7. Preheat the oil in a deep-fat fryer to 180C/350F (CAUTION: hot oil can be dangerous; do not leave unattended.)

  8. Dip the prepared squid in the flour, then the egg and panko breadcrumbs and place in the deep fat fryer. Cook for a couple of minutes until golden-brown and crisp. Tip onto a plate lined with kitchen roll to drain.

  9. To serve, place each squid on a serving plate and drizzle the pesto over. Garnish with coriander cress and mitzuna dressed with the rapeseed oil, topped with lime wedges, spring onions and chilli.

Required techniques

James Martin recipes from Saturday Kitchen

Less than 30 mins preparation time

10 to 30 mins cooking time

Serves 4