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Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Octopus, Potato & Roasted Tomato Salad

Octopus, what a delicacy! If you have never tried it, do it at the first occasion as you do not know what you have been missing until now; if you are too squeamish to do so...well, shame on you :-) These creatures are extremely fascinating, and I have often admired them under water through the lenses of my snorkelling mask, lurking amongst the rocks of some cliff in the Mediterranean sea, waiting patiently for their prey to swim within reach of their tentacles. I also find them equally captivating on my plate, with their tender, delicate but oh so flavoursome flesh. If you cook octopus slowly and for long enough, you'll find there is no need to beat it about with a meat hammer or such to tenderise it, so it is also rather easy to prepare. Here's a recipe for a tasty summer salad.

INGREDIENTS (for 4 people as a starter or two as a main)
  • An octopus of 1 and 1/2 Kg
  • 400 gr of baby new potatoes
  • 3 large, ripe beef tomatoes
  • Breadcrumbs
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • A handful of freshly chopped parsley
  • Some dried oregano
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Half a lemon
  • Salt and pepper
If you are buying your octopus fresh, ask your fishmonger to clean it for you (which means remove the innards, beak and eyes. Nice). Otherwise if you are buying it frozen, it would have most likely already been cleaned. If the latter is the case, wait for it to defrost, then place it in a large saucepan filled with water (the octopus needs to be completely submerged) and bring it to the boil. Let it simmer gently for about 1 hour/ 1 hour 15 minutes, or until the flesh is tender when pierced with a toothpick. Let the octopus cool in its own water.

When cool enough to handle, run your hands on each tentacle and the head, in order to peel off the skin - you'll find it will come off easily. Leave the suckers attached. When all the skin has been removed to reveal the white flesh, chop your octopus in bite-sized pieces and place them in a bowl. 

Heat the oven at 200°C. Cut your tomatoes horizontally in thick slices, then place them on a baking tray (they must not overlap). Drizzle each slice with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and oregano, then cover with breadcrumbs and drizzle with more olive oil. Roast them in the oven for about 30 minutes or until they have formed a golden, caramelised crust. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for about 10 minutes, then cut each tomato slice in half and add them to the octopus, in the bowl.

Now cut each baby new potato in two, and boil them until tender. Drain them and while still hot, add them to the tomatoes and octopus. Dress your salad to taste with olive oil, a handful of chopped parsley, one clove of garlic chopped very finely, salt, pepper and if you like, a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve it immediately, while still warm. 

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