Friday, 2 December 2011

One Pot Wednesday: Octopus

exciting new feature for Lou Loves Food!
One cold winter Wednesday in East London a few weeks back, I cooked a warming one pot dish. It was a success, and decided that the format should be repeated again the next week. Before long a seed of genius was planted within one bright little mind (Ican't claim it was mine, I don't remember who first noticed the alliterative potential of 'one pot' and 'wednesday') and from that seed One Pot Wednesday was born.
As we work our way through a wide range of dishes that can be created with minimum complexity- minimum washing up- I will upload them for you to try. The first to make its debut is Octopus Stew...

Octopus Stew

This is a lovely dish, though a little nerve wracking the first time you give it a go, as octopus is notoriously temperamental. Don't be put off by assuming it is either tough or chewy, this needn't be the case and I'll give you comprehensive instructions to avoiding it. It's so worth doing if you get it right- and I'm confident you will. The little tightly curled pink tentacles that nestle amongst the translucent stock and onion are so delicate and beautiful, especially pitted against the greens of the parsley and celery. I find it impossible to work with octopus without going into a rapture over their aesthetic.

1 large octopus, cleaned and frozen
1 bulb of Fennel
4 stalks of celery
2 white onions

1 jug fish stock
2 cups white wine
2 bulbs garlic

Large handful parsley

Plenty of cracked black pepper

Start by warming a large pan with a generous amount of olive and preparing your octopus if it hasn't already been done. It's important to freeze your octopus as it tenderizes it, and prevents you having to give it a good beating with a rolling pin before cooking.
Place the octopus (whole and unchopped) into the pan and add the garlic. Leave for a couple of minutes for the octopus to release its natural juices into the oil and then add a cup of white wine and the chopped onion.
Add the fish stock (I like to use the jelly stock) and bring to the boil, reducing immediately to a simmer. Whilst this simmers, chop the celery and fennel into slices. Add to the pan with the chopped parsley, reserving a little.

Now leave! With octopus and squid there is a cardinal rule you must abide by- never cook between 4 and 45 minutes! For a soft and tender squid (a chewy, rubbery texture is the main reason most people dislike this maligned creature. It is not in fact an accurate description and it is easily avoided, as long as you cook it correctly.) you should either fry it gently for less than four minutes, or stew it for over forty five. Anything on either side or between this tricky times can be disastrous.

After about forty minutes, remove your octopus with a slatted spoon. Slice up thickly and return to the pan, checking the texture. You should be able to slide a knife into it to gage its tenderness, but I like to taste test it! It may need an extra five or ten minutes- don't be afraid of going with your instinct. After about 55 minutes, my octopus went from being ever so slightly al dente to perfectly smooth and soft.

When its ready, add another cup of white wine and plenty of cracked pepper. Stir, and remove from the heat. The fish stock should make the stew nice and salty, but if you do like to season you're dishes, don;t do it till this point- adding salt any earlier to seafood will dry it out and toughen it up- don't do it!

Dish the stew into bowls and top with extra pepper (you can never have too much pepper in my book- the same applies to onion) and a second handful of parsley.


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