Ocean has always captivated my mind because it is an absolutely mysterious and timeless mega-organism, which even today is a home to some of the oldest known creatures on the Earth. One of them is an octopus.
While humans, as we know them today, have been around for 200 000 years, this well-preserved fossil is 165 million years old and belongs to a distant relative of a modern octopus (BBC, 2016). One needs to be literally lively to be able to survive as a species without any major change for so long. Is not that admirable?
And here is another thing, that I've learnt with food: you've got to appreciate, what nature gives you, and cook it with respect. Octopus deserves a special treatment, that is why every dish with this amazing creature should be absolutely stunning and delicious.
Portuguese Octopus Recipe
Cooking time: 30-35 minutes
Serves: 400 gr (15 oz) of octopus per person, so you can easily buy 1.5 kg (3.3 lbs) for three people do not forget that it will shrink a lot
It all starts with cooking this amazing creature. The easiest and quickest way is to use the pressure cooker. Put the whole octopus without cutting, 3 tbsp of water, 1 onion, a few carrots and a few bay leaves (no salt) into the cooker. Track 15 minutes sharp, after the pressure cooker is ready. (Pressure cooker is great for making your food soft within minutes vs boiling or stewing it for hours.)
Otherwise, like me today, you can boil your octopus with some shallots, parsley, carrots and bay leaves. Cover everything with water and simmer for one hour. You can turn the octopus upside down after half an hour.
1 cooked octopus
4-5 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves
2-3 middle size potatoes
1 tsp sweet paprika
Preparing the dish:
1. While your octopus is cooking, start boiling potatoes and carrots in a separate pot. You want them to be slightly undercooked by the time your octopus is ready from the pressure cooker.
2. Preheat the oven: 160C/320F/fan. Take a small tray, enough for the octopus and potatoes, cover the bottom of the tray with a thin layer of olive oil and add smashed or thin sliced garlic cloves (to avoid bad breath, take out the little sprout in the middle of a clove).
3. Spread potatoes all over the tray, making a pillow for the octopus. Move the octopus onto potatoes (without cutting) with the tentacles facing up. Pour a bit more olive oil on top, add salt, sweet paprika, and fresh parsley.
4. Cook in the oven on the lowest level for 10-15 minutes. Then gently mix the potatoes, pour the sauce onto the octopus and change the oven program to "grill and fan". Cook for another 5 minutes. Your potatoes and octopus will get crispy on the edges. Keep an eye on your food. Grills can be naughty and burn your food!
5. Take out the tray, add more fresh olive oil, some sweet paprika and parsley. Ready to eat!
So muscular and strong in real life, this octopus suddenly melted in my mouth; while the rich iodine flavour reminded me of a happy life, that it used to have in the deep blue ocean... All I want to say now is "thank you for this remarkable food experience".