Nature’s perfect little package

Bulgar stuffed calamari.

Who doesn’t love calamari? Grilled, deep fried, breaded, or sautéed! Take your meal to a new level and wow anyone at your supper table with stuffed squid!  They are naturally a perfect little package to fill with your favorite flavors.

This recipe can be difficult to make with tiny squid, but huge squid are readily available and fresh in Dar! Hence, my inspiration for this recipe was stirred.

Up for an adventure? Head down to the Kivukoni Fish Market. Plan to arrive early morning to avoid the crowds and get the freshest catch of the day. If you’re not feeling your inner Indiana Jones, the large Food Lovers on Msasani Rd. has a small selection.

Some people feel a little squeamish about preparing the squid. If so, ask your local fishmonger to do it when you make your purchase. However, if you’re up for the challenge and would like a more detailed description on how to gut the squid than I have provided, there are plenty of step-by-step YouTube tutorials online.

What the Heck is bulgur?
Bulgur wheat is a whole wheat grain that has been cracked and partially pre-cooked. It is a naturally high in fiber and low in fat. I love the texture and you can find it at most grocery stores.  Couscous is a good substitute.

Note: The stuffing can be made in advance, a day or two before stuffing will give the flavors a chance to meld together.

Bulgur stuffed calamari.

Bulgur stuffed calamari.


¾ cup – bulgur, uncooked
2 tbsp. – dill, fine chopped
4 tbsp. – raisins, small or currants
6 tbsp. – walnut toasted and chopped
1/2 tbsp. – mint, fine chopped
2 tbsp. – olive oil
1/2  – lemon, juiced
salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of chill flakes (optional)
¼ cup feta (option for cheese lovers – I haven’t tried it but you will have to omit other salt)

2 – onions, small or 1 large, finely diced
1 tsp. – ground cinnamon
1 tsp. – sweet paprika, plus extra to finish
3 – garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup – white wine or vegetable broth
1 can – chopped tomatoes or 5 tomatoes diced (560g net)
2 tsp. – tomato paste
1 – anise star, whole
1 tbsp. – lemon juice
1 tbsp. – sugar
1 tbsp. – picked dill
Salt and pepper
2 large squid (you may have extra stuffing for a third squid depending on their size)
6 toothpicks
4 tbsp. olive oil, plus extra to finish

Make Stuffing:
1.   Steam bulgur for 10 min, with vegetable broth.
2.   Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl along with ¼ teaspoon of salt and some black pepper. Mix well and set aside.

Prepare Squid:
1.   Pull away the wings and remove the tentacles and head, emptying the main tube from any cartilage or slime. Pull away the eyes, beak and anything else that feels hard or slimy from the tentacles. Discard everything but the cleaned tentacles and main body tube. Wash well and then pat dry.
2.   Pierce the end of each squid tube before using your fingers to gently press in the stuffing. Once three-quarters full seal the tube with the tentacles and secure with a toothpick.
3.   Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium frying pan, add the squid and sear for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, until golden. Remove the squid.

Get Saucy:
1.   In the same pan the squid was seared, add the 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan and sauté the onions, cinnamon and paprika for about 8 minutes on medium heat, until soft.
2.   Stir through the garlic and cook for another minute.
3.   Add the white wine and allow to bubble away gently for 2 minutes before adding the tomato and paste, lemon juice, sugar, ¼ of a teaspoon of salt and ¾ cup of water. Simmer for 5 minutes until the sauce has thickened a little.

Put it all together:
1.   Return the squid to the pan, pushing their tails down into the sauce. Cover with a lid and simmer gently on a medium heat for 20 minutes, until the squid are plump and the sauce has thickened and looks rich.
2.   Remove from the heat and drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with some paprika, and finish with the dill.
Serve at once with a lovely side salad or steamed vegetables.

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About the Author

Chakula Chick
Teacher extraordinaire by day, creator of good food by night. Join me as I cook my way through Tanzania with (mostly) local ingredients!