I’ve been doing loads of food writing lately: a couple of features for national magazines coming out in the new year, as well as a blog post for the wonderful Kathryn Elliott which I’ll put up here shortly. And I am about to start checking the first pages of my book about cooking coming out in May – all of which is very gratifying but has left little time for hanging round here, my most comfy corner of the internet. Coming back here is kind of like flopping on the couch in your trackydaks after being out in the grownup world…
One of the mag pieces was another foray into the world of offal (I’ll let you know when it’s published so you can read the whole horror show then if you like), an attempt to overcome the aversions I spoke about a while back. And while I certainly received a comprehensive innard education this time round and the experience was well worth it, I’m afraid I haven’t yet been seduced over to the dark (in)side.
There was one excellent side effect though – cooking this stuff gave me a few ideas for new (offal-free!) dishes to try. The kidney I made from Stephanie Alexander’s recipe, for example, came with a truly delicious spinach in a marsala sauce, which I would never ever have come across if I hadn’t been forced to go there for the K-word. And while my tripe was not something to write home about by any stretch – again – the braising liquid and other ingredients were incredibly good. The whole time we ate it I was thinking how good it would be with octopus instead of tripe, and so I made it at the earliest opportunity. And my oh my, it delivered.
Braised octopus is one of those dishes you need to eat before you can fully understand its appeal – it’s good simple peasant food with layers of kickarse flavour, but a lovely sumptuous texture as well. A few weeks after I made ours we dined with the Empress who served the most delicious ‘French-style braised octopus’ from a Kylie Kwong recipe that’s handily online here. One of the things I have always loved about our Empress’s cooking is her confident, natural flair with a really simple dish. This one she served with a green salad and some excellent sourdough, and nothing could have provoked more blissed-out groans from the table. Lord it was good.
The other great thing about octopus (apart from its unnerving intelligence, capacity for problem-solving and using tools, not to mention camera theft – they really are going to take over the world, you know) is that it gets the thumbs up for sustainability, unlike nearly every other kind of fish and seafood we eat. And – bonus of bonuses – it’s cheap. I am about to embark on life as a full-time student next year, which I suspect means this blog will be taking on a whole new shade of Dining Broke frugality, given that the vast bulk of our household spending goes on food and wine … so occy dinner is de riguer student food methinks.
Anyhow, here’s my version of braised octopus, mangled together from various recipes – the photo doesn’t show the white beans, which were an addition to leftovers the next day, but were so good I’m putting them in the final recipe.
Who says offal never gave me anything?
Braised baby octopus with chorizo & white beans
- 3 rashers bacon cut into chunks
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 1 head garlic, cloves roughly chopped
- 1 stick celery, finely chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 400ml or more red wine
- 2 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 bottle (700g) tomato passata
- 1 litre chicken stock
- 2 red chillies, split
- 1 kg cleaned baby octopus
- 10 halved cherry tomatoes or equivalent small tomatoes, roughly chopped
- Half to 1 chorizo sausage, sliced & fried
- 1 cup (or more) cooked /canned & drained white beans
- Salt & pepper
- Heat some oil in a heavy based casserole and fry the bacon, onion, celery and garlic till soft, with bay leaves.
- Add wine, oregano, passata and stock and bring to the boil. Add octopus and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Stir in chopped tomatoes, white beans and chorizo rounds and cook gently for another 15 minutes or until octopus is tender.
- Check seasoning and serve in shallow bowls.
Have you made a version of this? Or do you have another cephalopod favourite you’d like to share?