Bacon with cuttlefish, lemon, tomato & bay

This is the sort of dish I really like to cook, but also long to eat. It’s forcefully rich, moody and sweet, and crushingly delicious. It’s a dish that slows down time. I like the way these two robust ingredients, cuttlefish and bacon, submit to the low heat of the oven. They yield and tenderize at the same reluctant rate; they both add, neither subtracts. Pearl-white cuttlefish has a very unique flavour when slow-cooked in this way. If you haven’t had it before, I’d urge you to have a taste. 


1–2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 x 400g (14oz)-piece skin-on bacon or pancetta, cut into 4 equal pieces

1 cuttlefish (about 800g– 1kg/1lb 120z–2lb 4oz), ready to cook; ink reserved, if available

1 large onion, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

pared zest of 1⁄2 lemon

2 bay leaves

1⁄2 glass of white wine

200g (7oz) tinned tomatoes

400ml (14fl oz) pork or chicken stock

salt and freshly ground black pepper 


Heat the oven to 160°C/315°F/gas mark 2–3. Heat a dash of
olive oil in a medium frying pan over a medium–high heat. Place the bacon pieces in the pan and cook them on each side until golden and starting to caramelize (about 8–10 minutes). Remove from the heat and set aside.

Using a sharp knife, cut the cuttlefish body into strips of about 2–3cm (3⁄4–11⁄4in) wide. Cut the tentacles into small pieces. Return the bacon pan to a high heat and add all the cuttlefish pieces. Fry, turning occasionally, for 5–6 minutes, or until the fish pieces take on some colour.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large heavy-based casserole on a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 4–5 minutes, until the onion is beginning to soften. Add the fennel seeds, lemon zest and bay leaves. Cook for a further 2 minutes, then add the wine. Bring to a simmer, reducing the liquid for

1–2 minutes, then add the tomatoes and the stock, and return to a gentle simmer. Add the bacon and cuttlefish and stir to combine. Make sure the bacon is just submerged in the sauce.

Put a lid on the casserole and place it in the oven for 2–3 hours,
or until the bacon is tender and giving, and the cuttlefish is soft. Remove the casserole from the oven, lift the lid and give the bacon and cuttlefish a stir. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.
If you have the cuttlefish ink you can stir it in at this point – it will darken the sauce and enrich the dish. Serve straight away with hunks of good bread and a crisp salad.