OKTO-PODI ( from the greek meaning eight-feet)
Plural, octopii, octopodia or octopuses
- Recipe below -
Having a soft body, a strong beak like jaw and eight tentacles with suckers. According to Wikipedia ‘Octopuses are among the most intelligent behaviorally diverse of all invertebrates’ - remember Paul the Octopus who predicted the winners of the 2010 World Soccer cup matches? Paul was saved from being turned into octopus salad because of his psychic abilities but many of his species turn up on plates at tavernas, ristorantes and bistros all over the med.
Catching your octopus is an art learnt over the years by small boys with sticks who turn into tanned bare foot fishermen fishing for more fatale ‘prey’ in those same tavernas, ristorantes and bistros all over that same Mediterranean coast.
Jiggling a stick under its rock is a good way to make it leave its nest of stones on the seabed. Keep your eyes wide open because they are hard to spot. An octopus can change colour and blend very nicely into its surroundings. If you’re lucky it will wrap the tentacles around your arm and suck onto your skin. If you’re unlucky it will cover you in a blast of sticky black ink and launch itself like a rocket into the depths never to be seen again.
Be brave, grab it quickly by the ‘neck’ and bite it between the eyes to kill it. Swim to the nearest beach and ‘beat’ the octopus 100 times by slamming it on the rocks. This will tenderize it. Then swirl it around for a few minutes in the juices it produces. The octopus can also be softened by putting it in the freezer for a few days.
It's still common to see a fisherman beating an octopus on the rocks at the edge of the sea or the end of a jetty.
Or go to your local fishmonger and beg them to find one for you. Most of the world seems to know octopus only from a vaccum packeted tentacle in the gourmet section of the deli.
If you can’t find a fresh or frozen octopus then buy a ticket to Greece and make your way to the nearest small island ‘Ouzeri’. Order an aniseed ouzo with lots of ice and you’ll be given grilled ‘octpodi’ as a meze. You’ll be served a tentacle of octopus doused with lemon juice and also a toothpick. Spear a small slice of octopus which has been bbqed over the coals on the pavement next to you. Sip from your glass of milky ouzo, nibble on a slice of cucumber and chew your octopus tentacle while watching the brilliant sunset over the Aegean sea.
- Preparation and Recipe -
When you find an octopus to cook then this is the way to do it. If the octopus is frozen then let it defrost. If it’s fresh put it in the freezer for a couple of days to tenderize it.
Slit the *hood of the octopus and clean out the ink sac and any brown stuff. Wash the octopus well in cold water, especially if it feels slimy. Turn the hood inside out and cut out out the sharp ball-like projections, called the 'beak'.
*It’s simpler to cut off the hood and just use the tentacles. The hood tends to be tougher.
A traditional greek prefers it grilled but it will be chewy. Most online instructions for grilled octopus call for boiling it first to make it tender. That’s for others. Don't suggest that here in Greece. Here they will hang it out to dry before it goes on the grill, tentacle by tentacle.
If you're a reader of my blog you will have seen many photos of octopus hanging out to dry on my clothesline.
- To cook the most tender octopus you slowly stew it, more or less in its own juices.
- Boil the octopus in a little water for about an hour till it is soft. Add more water as is needed.
- Add a bay leaf as well. When it is ready and the juices/water have boiled down then add a good dash of vinegar, half a small wine glass of fresh olive oil and a smattering of oregano. Your saucepan will need a good scrub afterwards but the purple stains do disappear eventually.
My father-in-law insisted you should never add water to the pot but let it stew slowly in its own juices. None of the octopii I have cooked ever had enough juice to cook it that way.
- NB It does not need any salt (unless your name is Rainy)
- Cut the octopus into slices . Serve on a plate with the vinegar and oil. Maybe sprinkle a little dried oregano over it. The oil and vinegar make the sauce that you mop up with bread. Make sure the bread is not too fresh, and cut thick.
Follow up with sliced apples sprinkled with honey cinnamon and walnuts.
Traditional Greeks like a small sweet after a fish dish.
- Variations -
- You can also bake the octopus. K loves it with small macaroni shells, a tomato sauce made from fresh grated tomatoes, lots of olive oil and a couple of cinnamon sticks.
- To use in a salad boil it first till tender and then cut into the size you want and add the salad items you like. I've never seen this on a Greek menu.
- Grilled octopus. Some say grill it till it almost turns black. Others say grill it a few minutes and serve. You'll have to try each way and see which you prefer. With or without boiling it first. Slice into very thin pieces and eat with a squeeze of lemon juice and a scattering of dried oregano
- Octopus balls. If it's still tough after boiling, the cat won't eat it and you don't know what on earth to do with it then turn it into octopus keftethes. I made these once but can't remember the recipe exactly. You'll need a high power blender to chop it up. Probably the mixture needs breadcrumbs, parsley, maybe basil, pepper, spring onion, lemon juice, maybe an egg to bind the mix and oil to fry the walnut size balls. Use Google for the exact recipe
Oh. Dear me. No.ReplyDelete
You'll get it served up when you visit here. Steel the nerves!!Delete
I remember Paul the Octopus. I wonder if he could tell me the numbers for this weeks Euromillions draw?ReplyDelete
He's gone alas. Well an octopus has 8 tentacles so that's one number. Hatched on 26 January 2008. Died age 2 on 26 october 2010 . Those 2s, 8s and 26 maybe a message from octopus heaven????Delete
Octopus is something I’ve never tried- actually have never seen it on a menu here….but…I have eaten its ‘cousin’ Calamari (from a certain kind of squid I believe). Breaded and fried - on the menu at every RSL, usually in a Fisherman’s Basket. Makes a change from Fish & ChipsReplyDelete
It can be good but yes, I prefer kalamari too. When it's good it's very very goodDelete
Oh my I’m drooling 🤤ReplyDelete
Of course, I knew I could rely on you. I'll make sure K has it on his menu when you visit too!!! Bbqued, stewed, boiled and ....not raw.Delete
It all sounds delicious and I have eaten octopus a couple of times in Spain, but after watching Dr Octopus on Netflix I´m not sure I could eat it now.ReplyDelete
Sounds as though that octopus programme put a few off eating it. Even a lettuce screams as it is pulled out, so 'they ' say. . As long as I don't do the killing or hear the lettuce I'm fine!Delete
Thank you but no thank you!ReplyDelete
I'll get Angela to invite you a greek meal!!Delete
Thank you for that. I have kept your words for future reference. I love Octopus, but have always been wary of buying fresh. I shall be more brave now when I return to France.ReplyDelete
It really is easy to cook. We just put ours in the freezer for a few days. I don't think we've ever had a tough one, except for those that K dries and bbqs. You have to be a greek to enjoy that chewinessDelete
I saw a man catch one off a wharf once - he threw it back into the water! Probably didn't know he should have been biting it to death then bashing it :)ReplyDelete
Ha ha. I'm sure not many kiwis would know what to do with it!Delete
I like octopus, but my husband won't touch it, haha. I'll order it in a restaurant if they have it, but mostly I order calamari. The biting part, wow.ReplyDelete
I've never seen anyone bite the octopus but my husband insists that's the traditional way to put it out of it's misery . Most just use a knifeDelete
I like eating it but I've only ever tried it in a restaurant, I would never cook it myself for fear of making it tough in the process. I've caught some though over the years while fishing but have always put them back in the water.ReplyDelete
We have tried while in NZ to find fresh octopus, without success. They've got to be around. You were lucky to catch someDelete