Braised Octopus and potato salad

The mediterranean diet has long been a fan of octopus but whilst squid and calamari have become a popular in the uk we are still reluctant to embrace the larger octopus for some reason. Maybe its the tentacles?! Since living in Italy I have become a huge fan of octopus as it is generally meatier and less chewy (if prepared properly) than some of the squid dishes I’ve had in the past. It is also packed full of B vitamins and low in calories making it an ideal alternative to other fattier fish.

Having said all of this I hadn’t ever thought of preparing it myself until recently. My local supermarket is somewhat limited in the fish department and I get really bored with eating salmon and the one or two white fish that they sell so when I saw Octopus on offer a couple of weeks ago I decided to take the plunge. I had a half idea in my head that preparation mainly entailed boiling meaning it wouldn’t be too tricky to cook but other than that I had no clear idea.

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In milan you often find octopus and potato salad on the menu throughout the summer months and it is a really hearty salad to keep you going throughout the day. I don’t order it very often as, with all things, the quality can vary from place to place but I have always loved it when I’ve had a good one. With this is mind I consulted various recipe books and came across this one by Giorgio Locatelli that best fit a) the ingredients I had in the fridge and b) the overall flavour I was after as it contains a little bit of added spice which I love.

I also discovered that boiling is not the only way to cook octopus. As they contain a fair bit of water in them, this recipe calls for braising and letting the natural waters that are released during the cooking process do all the work. The end result is meant to be a more tender piece of octopus and richer flavours as the octoups absorbs the garlic and chilli that is in the pan with it. Octopus are generally considered to be highly intelligent by marine biologists and this struck me as a nice intelligent means of cooking them.

As I mentioned this salad as a slight zing with the chilli which can be left out for thouse of you who are not lovers of the spice. To counter the chilli I served my octopus with a cooling avocado, coriander and lemon salad which complemented the octopus brilliantly but before we get carried away with the side dish here is the recipe for the main event.

Octopus & Potato Salad

Ingredients: 1 whole octopus, 2 cloves garlic, 1 red chilli, handful of basil leaves, handful of flatleaf parsley, 1/2 kilo potatoes chopped with skin on, 6 tbsps olive oil, 3 tbsp white wine vinegar, spring onion (optional), salt and pepper

Preparation: 2 hours

1. Thoroughly wash the octopus under running water for c. 5 mins to get rid of any excess salt as this will only serve to toughen the octopus during cooking.

Octopus

2. Many recipes tell you to beat the octopus to tenderise it but as I was not familiar with the process I opted out and luckily everything turned out ok.

3. In a large pan heat half of the olive oil and throw in the garlic cloves and the chopped chilli. Add in the octopus, turn down the heat and simmer with a lid on for a minimum of 1 hour but ideally 1 and 1/2 hours. Add in half of the chopped basil and parsley half way through the cooking. The octopus will gradually turn from white to a deeper purply colour.

Octopus1

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4. Keep an eye on the octopus throughout cooking to ensure that the juices don’t dry up. This braising process creates a beautiful rich juice that once reduced down adds to the flavour of the overall salad.

5. Once the octopus is cooked, remove from the pan and allow to cool and in the meanwhile reduce down any remaining liquid and in a seperate pan boil the potatoes until soft.

6. Chop the body and tentacles of the octopus and combine in a large serving bowl with the potato. Pour over the remaining juice from the octopus pan. Add in the remaining chopped basil and parsely and the spring onion (if using it).

7. Dress with the remaining olive oil, white wine vinegar and season accordingly with salt and pepper. Give the salad a good mix until everything is nicely coated.

Octopus58. Serve whilst still slightly warm with a side salad, a fresh lemon to squeeze over an some crusty bread to mop up the juices.

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Comments
4 Responses to “Braised Octopus and potato salad”
  1. This is a very good post, Claire, and very educational. I enjoyed reading it. I don’t think I would have thought about braising octopus until I read your post.

  2. chef mimi says:

    This is beautiful. I’ve never gotten to play with octopus because of where I live. But hopefully one day I’ll be able to. And then perhaps I’ll make this salad!!!

    • It was really so easy! I was surprised myself and also wondering why I hadn’t done it sooner. But you have lots of other great things to play with..like crab!! I have crab envy as love it but don’t find it much in Italy..if ever!

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