I purchase a whole octopus, reduced from Morrisons a couple of weeks ago. I prefer octopus's cousin squid and have only ate octopus twice (in Tenerife) prior to this rather impulsive purchase. In fact, I think I brought the octopus because I felt sorry for it, as my local Morrisons shop had several packets of pitiful looking octopus that were reduced to £1.20 (bargain or what) that needed to be purchased or it would be thrown away. Not one for wasting or passing up a bargain, I purchased a packet of octopus and stored away my new found bargain in the freezer. I was toying on what to cook, when I remembered that the fantastic A Lot On Her Plate cookery book by Rosie Birkett featured several octopus recipes. I decide on this recipe. The octopus does require some preparation work, but the results are great, tender, chewy and flavoursome, this made a great mid-week lunch (although I suspect would make a light evening meal. As you will see from the photographs, I was lacking on the butter beans, but it was great without it, but I have included the authentic recipe without my amendments for ease.
Here is how my Octopus, Avocado Salad with a chill garlic dressing.
8 tablespoons olive oil
2 red birds eye chillies, halved
5 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
3 slices of lemon
few sprigs flat-leaf parsley, leaves and stemmed
1 bay leaf
3 black peppercorns
handful of cherry tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil
1 sprig rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
juice of 1/2 lemon
pinch of white pepper
400g butter beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
1 ripe avocado, peeled, stoned and cubed.
First you need to tenderise the octopus. You can do this very easily by freezing it a couple of days before you cook it, and then defrosting it. Or you can buy it frozen and then defrost. You may also need to remove the eyes. Do this by cutting around and under them with a very sharp knife and popping them and the attached cartilage out. When you cut out there eyes you can then press the hard break (the creatures mouth) out of the centre cavity where the legs join together. Clean any gunk from the cavities with kitchen paper, and rinse the octopus under cold water in the sink for about 10 minutes. Alternatively, ask your fishmonger to clean and prep the octopus for you.
Place 6 tablespoons of the olive oil with the octopus, chillies, garlic, lemon slices, parsley, bay leaf and peppercorns in a large pot or casserole, give it a shake, and cover tightly with a lid. Slowly bring it up to the boil and simmer gently for 30 minutes. At this point check for tenderness, prodding a skewer or cocktail stick into the fattest part of the octopus. If the octopus falls off the skewer easily with little resistance rather than sticking to it, it's done. If it clings to the skewer, cook it for a further 10-15 minutes, or until there's no resistance.
While the octopus is cooking, toss the tomatoes in 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil with a pinch of sea salt, the rosemary and vinegar and set aside.
Once it's cooked until tender, transfer the octopus from the casserole to a plate. Allow it to cool and then, if you like, peel of the dark skin and cut into chunks. To make the chili garlic dressing, place the softened garlic and cooked chillies that were cooked with the octopus in a mini-chopper with about 5 tablespoons of the purple cooking liquor from the pot and blitz until you have a creamy, emulsified sauce. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the lemon juice and white pepper, and blitz again.
To assemble the salad, mix the beans with the onion, parsley, avocado and marinated tomatoes , and arrange on the plate. Top the octopus, and drizzle with the dressing.