The Octopus

Posted By Kerri

There’s been a sense of unease in our little flat today. We slept well, had a good breakfast and completed all our boring domestic tasks early. The sun is shining and the day was ours to do with as we pleased so the little black cloud following us aroung puzzled me until my mind turned to dinner plans. The octopus. Two octupuses in fact, whole ones, squashed into our tiny freezer tenderising as we cleaned the oven and swept the floor around it.

We ate a brilliant octopus stew at a friend’s place just after Christmas and quickly resolved to do something similar at home, just as soon as we could find the necessary creatures. Finding them wasn’t a problem but there just didn’t seem to be any time. Until yesterday when we made the trip to the fish market, handed over our £4.50 and came home to research recipes. Yes, a little backwards and the reason the octopuses went into the freezer and we had pie last night instead. They need to be tenderised and one of the best ways to do that is via the freezer.

Having just been on a butchery course, I was confident that I could handle the cleaning and portioning until I did some reading. Firstly, there was talk of beaks which resulted in a full body shudder (I don’t really like birds or anything flappy) and then other horrible words (slime, for example) started to appear which further compounded my squeamishness.

It turns out that Stephen, having recently dealt with a couple of whole squids, was feeling similarly anxious about the prospect of turning our cephalopod into something resembling dinner, hence the dark mood spoiling our Sunday.

It seemed to me that the best way to deal with this slippery situation was just to get on with it and start hacking away but, of course, the creatures were frozen and in no state for butchery. Stephen threw them into some cold water to speed up the process while we took our mind off things by cleaning the windows (the presence of octopus in the kitchen is a great way to get through those little jobs you’ve been putting off).

And then it was time. We donned our aprons and with a glass of wine in one hand and a freshly-sharpened knife in the other, we got down to business. Since there were two, we decided we would handle one each. Stephen, ever the gentleman, went first and it soon became apparent that our squeamishness wasn’t for nothing. The tentacles were easy to remove but as soon as he reached the head (and, horror, the beak) the previously mentioned slime was everywhere and made the slippery little suckers somewhat difficult to handle. After turning the body inside out* he removed the guts and gave everything a good clean.

Then it was my turn. Having watched Stephen, I managed to avoid puncturing the guts as he had done and so there was less slime this time. I did inadvertantly squish an eye though which wasn’t particularly pleasant and made me very grateful for my 79p Ikea rubber gloves. Things went rather more swimmingly after that though and, after 24 hours of anxiety, we were in posession of two portioned octopuses ready for the pot.

After a quick pounding with a meat tenderiser, the pieces went into a pot of boiling water for an hour to tenderise further. And then we were on rather more familiar ground, softening onions and frying herbs to form the basis of the stew.

And the result? It was OK but not mind-blowing. The octopus itself was beautifully tender but we overdid it with the tomatoes which meant we couldn’t taste much else. More wine was required too and perhaps adding the liquor we used to tenderise the octopus with would help too.

Octopus Stew
Serves Two

2 octopuses
Oil, for frying
1 onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Tablespoon tomato puree
Glass of red wine
500ml stock
Bunch of parsley, finely chopped
1/2 bunch oregano, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
1 potato, diced

If your octopus isn’t frozen, then freeze it. Wr froze ours for 24 hours but online guidance suggests 48 hours is preferable.

Once frozen, joint the octopus and boil it for 1 hour. We added onion and a bay leaf to the water.

Drain and reserve the water. Once cool, chop the octopus into small pieces and tenderise with a meat tenderiser.

Soften the onion, pepper and garlic in some oil. Add the tomato puree and allow to caramelise.

Deglaze the pan with some red wine and allow the alcohol to cook out. Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to the boil and then simmer for 1.5 hours.

*If you want to see what an inside-out octopus looks like then there are more pictures on our Flickr stream.

Mar 7th, 2010

6 Comments to 'The Octopus'

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  1. Lizzie said,

    I’ve been wanting to get octopus for a while to make Galician octopus. I think I’ll ask my fishmonger to deal with it, like the wimp I am!
    .-= Lizzie´s last blog ..The Burger =-.

  2. I love squid and octopus…delicious! Funny you mention the beak. Years ago when I was in Australia we stopped to watch fishermen catching octopus. We watched them disembowl them and I was surprised to see the beak part – makes you wonder if there is some sort of connection with birds…if you believe in evolution… quite fascinating though…
    .-= The Curious Cat´s last blog ..Wicked reading… =-.

  3. Helen said,

    I really enjoyed dealing with my octopus and I think pulpo a la gallega is a great way to enjoy it as you really get the flavour of the octopus. I like the sound of a stew though and it’s a shame it overpowered.
    .-= Helen´s last blog ..Sicilian Spaghetti Cake =-.

  4. Danny said,

    I’ve tackled squid before but not octopus. They do look a bit erm intimidating! But £4.50 sounds like good value, where’s your local fish market then?
    .-= Danny´s last blog ..The Posts Lost In Time And Space =-.

  5. Kerri said,

    Now we’re over the squeamishness, Galician octopus is next on the list, Lizzie!

    I looked away when we got to the beak part, CC, *shudder*

    Stew perhaps wasn’t the best way to really taste the octopus, in hindsight, I’ll look up pulpo a la gallega, thanks.

    It’s not too bad once you get into it, Danny, more the thought of it that’s so off-putting. We got these from the fish stall at North End Road market.

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