Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Food over London and the Tentacles of Doom

Always keen to try something different, so after being inspired by the octopus dish at Opera Tavern, and Anthony Bourdains' No reservations in Lisbon, I wanted to recreate my own version. Good octopus isn't the most easiest to source with most supermarkets selling puny white things that are no doubt accountable for most comments of 'octopus just tastes like rubber' as well as inadequate cooking methods. Also, the internet is awash with loads of contradictory advice until I stumbled upon this video from Tom Kitchen.
I picked up a large atlantic octopus from a little Portuguese cafe in Kentish Town, called Wine Cellar, a gem of a place, the espressos and pastéis de nata they do are amazing. They also have a sizeable amount of Portuguese produce including Bacalhau and a great selection of frozen seafood. Downstairs is a huge wine cellar (as the name suggests), so it's well worth checking out if you are in the area. Since the octopus is frozen the first part of the tenderising process is already done.

Despite good intentions, it took ages to finally getting around to cooking this beast, after months swimming around the back of my freezer, it even had it's own name. That was until I left the freezer was left open one night, and was forced to defrost it properly and come up with something inspiring very quickly. 

Preparation is very hands on, having to push out the beak and cut it off before turning it's head inside out like a sock to cut off the ink sack definitely isn't for the squeamish! Also make sure to cut out the eyes. After washing in cold water, it is plunged into a pan of simmering water (making sure to turn it's head the right way round) quickly 3 times, as shock therapy to ensure tenderness. On each plunge the tentacles should start to curl up slightly each time then left submerged at the bottom of the pan for an hour until the thickest part of the octopus where the tentacles meet the body yields easily to a small sharp knife. Care must be taken not to overcook it, otherwise the interior will be dry out and be tough.

What lies beneath waiting

Once cooked, it was then cut up into tentacle portions and then chargrilled until the skin was slightly crispy. At the same time I pan fried some red peppers and chorizo and made up some mojo verde to go with it. Totally stole the Mojo Verde from the Octopus dish I had at Opera Tavern but went so well it was a no brainer, but instead of going to the effort of making a chickpea fritter, hummous was just as good a subsitute

It seems daunting at first, but it's actually one of the simplest seafood to prepare, and well worth a go. Polvo was delicious
The final outcome:


1.2kg octopus 
1 ring of Iberico chorizo
1 red pepper
Mojo Verde
  - 1 handful fresh coriander leaves, flat leaf parsley and mint leaves
  • 150mL extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 salted anchoives
  • 2 tbsp Sauvingon Blanc vinegar
Wine Cellar, 193 Kentish Town Road, Kentish Town

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