Memories from Malta Mediterranean-style preparations of Cephalopods – ok octopus and squid – compared to Sussex coastal preparations

By Albert Fenech

I never fail to remain amazed at the relativity of my stays in Kent and Sussex mirroring my Maltese homeland and upbringing. The amazement is based on the fact that together they are sea coast localities and therefore have many things in common – even though geographically they are far apart.  

Yet, development-wise there are so many similarities, including poitical development, and of course the culinary sector. Food has always been supreme everywhere no matter the political circumstances because it is based on what is locally available, particularly during times of war or deprivation. 

No matter the times and situations, the need for food becomes always first and foremost and the priority being what is mainly available at hand and portioning this out.

All this came to light when my mentor Lyn Funnell sent me her recent Sussex squid preparation and naturally there were differences to our Med style preparations. 

I am a dab hand in the kitchen inherited from my paternal side. My grandfather was a Prime Chef in the Royal Navy (meaning cooking for officers and NOT the rest of the crew who had to do with lashings of chips, fish, mincement and sausages.) Two of his brothers were what was termed as “Messmen” throughout the Mediterranean RN, a position today termed as Head of Catering. 

Lyn herself spent some of her girlhood years living in Malta and thus experienced the differences and similarities. 


Sussex Squid Stew





Truly appetising, but surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, Malta and Gozo have a great number of varieties that include octopus, squid, and cuttlefish, as well as a variety of shelled items such as clams, molluscs and mussels. 

Octopus and cuttlefish are the easiest preparations because they cannot be stuffed with anything and are just cut into small chunks.

In our Maltese recipes they have to be totally free of ink and I do not have a problem to clean then. I immerse them in water in an appropriate receptacle and gradually remove the beaks and the harder parts and wash off all the ink. 

For cooking, I use some of the ingredients used by Lyn. That is cooking oil rather than olive oil because this is not suitable for frying, some chopped peppers for taste and colouring, loads of fresh parsley, a chopped onion, loads of chopped garlic cloves, a generous sprinkling of black pepper, a generous amount of clams and mussels,  moderate sprinkling of salt because these are in themselves sea-salted and cover in white wine and a little lemon juice.

The cooking process is also relatively simple. Fry the octopus/cuttlefish pieces in a pan turning over frequently so they do not stick or burn but to ensure they are well cooked. Then add the peppers, mussels and clams, chopped onion and garlic and continue frying gently so that these are well cooked. Finally, add the wine, lemon juice, some water so that all is immersed and season with pepper/salt.

Do not boil but allow all to simmer for about an hour before serving with crusty fresh bread and some boiled/fried potatoes and then tuck in!


Cooking squid is also relatively uncomplicated but involves more work. After thorough cleaning from all traces of ink, cut off the tentacles and prepare the stuffing for the pocket-cavity. 

The mix for the cavities is relatively easy but assess the volume needed to sufficiently fill them without their bursting. This is usually, some dried bread crumbs, coloured peppers finely cut, plenty of diced fresh parsley, sliced garlic, a little olive oil to lubricate and a mixture of anchovies, sardines and tinned tuna fish and sprinklings of black pepper powder.  

Mix thoroughly into a mash and fill the cavities, pinning the rim of each cavity with toothpicks to seal as much as possible.

Lightly place some cooking oil into a pan and begin frying the cavities gently, frequently turning over to prevent scorching. Add the sliced tentacles. When sufficiently slightly browned add some white wine, lemon juice and enough warm water to cover the cavities. 

Bring to the boil gently and then allow to simmer for an hour – always ensuring there is enough liquid.

Stuffed squid – ready to eat!

In a similar manner should be accompanied by lashings of fresh bread and potatoes of your choice whether chips, boiled of grilled, and further garnished with chopped, fresh parsley and – if desired – sprinkling of pepper and garlic powder. 

One final tip, but this is just to my personal liking, I do not like these to be so overcooked as to become too soft and have no bite. I like to leave them a little under-done so there is a light crunch to chew on as this adds to their flavour.



  • Albert Fenech

    Albert Fenech was born in Malta in 1946. His family moved to England in 1954 where he spent boyhood and youth before in 1965 returning to Malta. He spent eight years as a journalist with “The Times of Malta” before taking a career in HR Management Administration with a leading international construction company in Libya, later with Malta Insurance Brokers, and finally STMicroelectronics Malta, employing 3,000 employees, Malta’s leading industrial manufacturer. Throughout he actively pursued international freelance journalism/ broadcasting for various media outlets covering social issues, current affairs, sports and travel. He has written in a number of publications both in Malta and overseas, as well as publishing two e-books. For the last eight years he had been writing a “Malta Diary” with pictures for Lyn Funnel’s international travel magazine.

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