Artist’s Palate: Paula Rego’s lulas guisadas
Photography: Zachary Zavislak. Interiors: Pei-Ru Keh
For all the fame of bacalhau, it’s often squid stewed in tomatoes that is the real childhood comfort food of the ex-patriot Portuguese and their co-linguists from Mozambique to Brazil. Paula Rego’s grandchildren are no exception and have grown up having her simple version of the stew for Sunday lunch. She cooks hers in onions, tomatoes and parsley for an hour or so, until the squid is melting into the sauce. As a dish it has a rootedness which echoes the Portuguese fables told in her paintings. And the squid, as a creature, is as much a beautiful grotesque as any of the spiders, skeletons or squatting women who populate her tableaux. It certainly makes a more Rego-esque Sunday lunch than roast beef and Yorkshire pud. Her themes of feminist folk tales and subverted myth are painted in outlines as bold as the flavours of her favourite stew.
Serves 4 to 6
1 large onion, finely chopped
1kg of fresh tomatoes or 2 x 400g cans of tinned tomatoes
2kg fresh cleaned squid (ask the fishmonger to clean it and wash any gloopy bits at home), chopped into fat rings or strips, with tentacles intact
Salt and pepper
Bunch of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped including the stalks
1. Simmer the onion gently in the olive oil. This is called refogado in Portuguese and is the start of most recipes. Do it gently until the onion is transparent, but don’t let it brown.
2. If you’re using fresh tomatoes, add them to the onions, put a lid on and sweat for a few minutes. Take the lid off, stir and sweat some more, then add a cup of boiling water.
3. Add the chopped squid and tentacles, put the lid on and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally and adding water if needed. Keep prodding the squid with a fork to see if it’s cooked. When the fork goes in easily, add the salt and pepper.
4. Add the chopped parsley and cook for another 15 mins. The squid should be tender when you poke it. (The squid will get softer the longer you cook it.)
5. If you’re using tinned tomatoes, add the squid to the cooked onions first, put the lid on and cook for about 5 mins. Add a cup of water, put the lid back on and simmer, making sure the squid doesn’t burn. The squid will also release its water. After about 20 mins, add the tinned tomatoes and cook for an hour. Prod the squid every now and then to see if it’s cooked. When the fork goes in easily, add the salt, pepper and parsley.
6. Serve with plain boiled rice or mashed potato. Both will soak in the squid gravy.