Cooking octopus – the remake

The octopus with basil, paprika, extra virgin olive oil and lemon

The post on my blog that undoubtedly gets the most traffic is the octopus one. Who would have known.  (The other one is about a Russian herring/potato/beetroot salad thing…Nah I don’t know either) It’s also one of the dishes I get asked to cook at home more often than anything else. Clearly The Judging Panel approves. They however live 2 hours from the coast, and when when we prepare octopus, its always in heavily salted water with some aromatics – rosemary, lemon etc. depending on the style of the meal. However now I feel I’ve found the crux – obviously not mentioned in the previous post, and that’s obviously the reason the Galicians freak out about it  – that really makes octopus exceptional.

Obvious yes – but not if you don’t live at the coast: cooking it in seawater!

Earlier this week though we visited some family who live in Struisbaai, near L’Agulhas on the south coast, and once again an octopus was hauled out for dinner. I took some pics to show how to clean it – unless you work in a restaurant kitchen or catch your own (damn difficult) this is unusual to see – but if done correctly, you can slice the whole beast up, head, skirt and tentacles, and therefore get a larger meal. My other post goes on a bit more about the cooking and the structure of the flesh, but one thing is certain, I would almost say that it is imperative that you cook it in seawater. The difference is astounding. The rosemary helps in a sort of backgroundish, botanical way, whereas the seawater adds  just the correct amount of salt to the gelatinous meat. Awesome.

Boiling (simmering really) isn’t the only method by which to cook it – a really popular braising method is to just lay the cleaned specimen in a tray and get it into a low oven, and it basically simmers in its own liquids. The Greeks barbeque it – for that you need to air-dry it like in my picture – otherwise all the excess moisture will cause the tentacles to simmer and steam in their own juices (which is OK  for long and slow braising) although on a fast, direct heat method like a barbeque this will  result in a need for dentures by the time your’e 35. Not cool.

Drying in the wind for the barbeque
Clean out the whole inside of the 'head' and the digestive bits
Press out the parrot-like beak by pushing your thumb in underneath it
Ready for some simmering action

One Comment Add yours

  1. Caitlin says:

    I LOVE OCTOPUS! You are so lucky to have octopus in your life, I need to get my hands on some down here in NZ. Where are you now? When will you back in Oz? I am 100% going to visit you!! Miss you! x Caitlin

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