MY head chef returned from Billingsgate Market last week with a small box of fresh octopi. He has a free hand to bring back anything he thinks might be of interest and when he told me what he was going to do with them, I began to feel hungry.
These little beauties had been caught by a small vessel fishing out of Cromer on the North Norfolk coast, in the shallow rocky waters, which is their habitat.
A mental picture was created as I remembered the words of a Beatles song – “I’d like to be under the sea, in an octopus’s garden in the shade.” I think they may have been ‘somewhere else’ when they wrote this, but to eat this cephalopod, cooked well, could make you feel as good.
My taste in food is as you would think, very wide ranging. But I realise that certain foodstuffs would not have the same wide appeal. This is a shame, because it prevents many people from experiencing some fantastic taste sensations.
Try this recipe if you have any doubts, and you will see what I mean. It is a Southern Italian speciality – stewed octopus with white wine and tomatoes. The dish originates in Puglia, and the surrounding area.
Octopus requires long, slow simmering, so keep your temperature low and give yourself plenty of time.
It will make a great starter for your summer dinner parties.
l 1 cleaned octopus, about 650g, cut into large pieces, including the tentacles
l 4 tbsp olive oil
l 3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
l 2 large ripe plum tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and chopped
l 150ml passata
l 175ml dry white wine
l 2tbsp clear honey
l 2tbsp chopped dill
l 1tbsp chilli flakes
l 2tbsp chopped parsley
l 1tbsp capers
l Salt and freshly milled black pepper
1) Bring a large pan of slightly salted water to a boil.
2) Carefully drop the octopus into the boiling water, return to a boil and cook for 1-2 minutes, then run under cold water to cool it down.
3) Cut the octopus into large pieces and fry in olive oil over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes.
4) Add the chopped garlic and cook for another minute or two.
5) Add the wine and bring to a boil over a high heat.
6) Stir well and let it cook down for 3-4 minutes.
7) Add the tomatoes, passata and chilli flakes and bring to a simmer.
8) Add about a little salt and the honey.
9) Cover with a lid and simmer for 45 minutes then add the capers.
10) Test to see if the octopus has become tender yet, if not, simmer for up to another 45 minutes.
11) When it is tender, add the dill and parsley and black pepper.
12) Check the seasoning, adding a little salt if necessary.