Sabbidej Mtabbal (Dressed Squid Salad)

The squid is cooked in its ink together with bay leaves, orange peel, lemon and lime which gives it a subtle flavour of the sea. It is then served in its inky juice mixture as a cold salad, garnished with parsley, suitable for a spring evening with a glass of chilled arak or white wine. You need a big squid about 550g / 1¼ lb or over, when you buy it, ask the fishmonger to reserve the sac of ink. You can also buy the ink separately in sachets, some fishmongers stock it.


Loligo vulgaris is the most commonly known edible squid, it is native to the Mediterranean and the Eastern Atlantic including the British Isles. However, I noticed that some squids have less ink than others. Therefore, if you want the deep black colour, make sure you have extra ink.


If you want to know more about squids, here are two suggested websites:


Serves 4




·         1 kg / 2¼ lb squid cleaned keeping the sac of ink intact.

·         Enough water to cover the squid

·         3 bay leaves

·         1 orange peel, 1 large lemon quartered, 1 whole lime quartered

·         Salt and freshly milled black pepper

·         Extra virgin olive oil

·         3 cloves of garlic peeled (optional)

·         2 tbsps lemon juice or to taste

·         A generous handful of fresh parsley chopped       




1.      Start cleaning the squid if it hasn’t been done already. Put the squid on a solid area like large cutting board. While holding the body firmly with one hand, carefully remove the head (you will see the eyes) and tentacles with the other hand pulling along with it the guts containing the mucus. The ink sac is attached to the guts. It is very small and you will see the dark ink through the whitish membrane. It is very fragile, cut it off very carefully, but make sure there is something like a saucer underneath (to the catch the juice in case it breaks).  Next, cut off the tentacles from the head, just below the eyes. Throw away the head and other innards. There is inside the ring of tentacles what looks like a hard cartilage umbilicus, if you squeeze the tentacles, this umbilicus-like ring will pop out, pull it off and discard. Now, back to the main body, pull out what feels like a plastic quill in the inside, discard. Next, tear off the fins from both sides of the body and the outer brownish skin should all peel off, discard. Clean and wash the body and tentacles thoroughly with water, to remove any other membrane or guts, and to get rid of any sand or grit.   

2.      Transfer the cleaned squid and tentacles to the pan, pour enough tap water to cover. Prick the ink bag over the pan and stir in 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil. Give it a good stir, then throw in the bay leaves, orange peel, lemon and lime slices.

3.      Using a high to medium setting, bring the mixture to the boil. Season then cover and let it simmer for about 20-30 minutes, until just tender. Overcooking makes them chewy.

4.      Meanwhile prepare the dressing. Crush (if using) the garlic to a paste, transfer to a deep serving salad bowl and whisk in lemon juice. Remove the squid and tentacles from the inky juice and cut into thick slices, toss into the dressing.

5.      Discard the orange peel, bay leaves, lemon and lime slices. Strain the remaining juice and add it to the squid mixture. Taste, and if necessary, top up with more lemon juice. If you are not eating immediately, cover and keep it in the fridge.

6.      Just before serving, drizzle about 1 tbsp of extra virgin oil and add in the parsley. Serve with Lebanese bread on the side. Crusty bread also goes well.