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
- 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