Octopus is a staple of Spanish cooking and is found all over Spain, in restaurants and domestic kitchens alike. Not so in the UK though, where it is notorious for being bland and chewy. Properly sourced and cooked, octopus is superb. At the restaurants, we use large frozen octopuses and thaw them slowly overnight. This thawing process naturally tenderizes the flesh before cooking.
If you buy a fresh octopus, we recommend you freeze and then defrost it to guarantee tenderness. The sweet-and-sour pepper braise partners the rich, almost fatty, octopus incredibly well.
Serves 4 as a Main or 6-8 as a Tapa
1 frozen octopus (approximately 1.5 – 2kg), thawed overnight in the fridge
3 bay leaves
1 onion, peeled
10 coriander seeds
For the Peperonata:
5 large red peppers, quartered, seeds removed and finely sliced
2 red onions, peeled and finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
10 plum tomatoes, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 springs thyme
2 tablespoons Demerara sugar
100ml Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Olive oil for cooking
Sea salt and black pepper
With a sharp knife slice the head off the octopus between the tentacles and the hard, inedible mouthpiece. Discard the head.
Place the octopus is a large saucepan, cover with cold water and add the bay leaves, onion, peppercorns and coriander seeds. Place the pan over a high heat and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer and skim off any impurities that rise to the top. Cook the octopus for about 1 hour or until tender. A small, sharp knife should be able to penetrate a thick part of the octopus easily. Remove the octopus from the liquid and leave to cool. You can reserve the liquid for soups or for cooking pulses with.
To make the Peperonata, heat a medium-sized saucepan over a high heat and add a lug of olive oil. Add the peppers, onions and garlic and cook for 20 minutes, stirring as you go. Next add the tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme, sugar and vinegar. Mix well before turning the heat down to medium. Continue to cook and stir, making sure nothing sticks. You want the tomatoes to cook down in to a thick, rich sauce and for the natural water to evaporate. Check for seasoning and then remove from the heat to rest. The sauce should have a rich, delicious sweet-sour flavour.
Heat a grill pan or barbecue to maximum heat. Cut the tentacles in to 2 pieces each. Rub with olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill the tentacles until crisp and lightly charred. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the tentacles and serve with the Peperonata.
Wine pairing: A crisp white from Campania in Italy. Try a Falanghina or a Greco di Tufo for a fresh match!