Vinegary, tender octopus that still has a meaty bite to it.

Considering I had grilled octopus every single day whilst I was in Greece, you would have thought I would have at least one photograph of those lovely chargrilled tentacles. I have looked thrice through all my Greece holiday photographs. I do not have a single photograph of it. Not one! Then, that might not be too surprising considering how I relish the food I love. Once it is set in front of me, pretty much nothing else matters. I am completely focused on the food at hand. You can try striking up a conversation but you would probably just hear a few polite grunts coming out from me. Best to just leave me alone for a few minutes whilst I eat and please do not ask to try a piece of my food! It’s mine!

Cooking octopus need not be intimidating. That is, if you use frozen uncooked octopus. The quick freezing and thawing does help to tenderise the meat.However, cooking time depends partly on which sea the octopus was fished out from, the species and age of the octopus. So the octopus you bought might cook faster or even slower than the ones available to me.

Greek octopus are by far the best I have tasted and the Greeks hands down, have perfected the art of grilling it. Try as I might, I will never be able to replicate Greek grilled octopus. For one, no octopus swims near my country’s coastal waters so I have no access to fresh octopus. I only have access to small frozen ones and even then, they have all been pre-cut into haphazard sizes. Working with what’s available to me, I came up with this slow cooked octopus. It does not taste anything close to Greece’s grilled octopus but it is still good enough to put on your table of meze.

This is the last recipe for the spread of meze I served at a recent party. I prepared 10 meze that were inspired by my holiday in Greece. Click here, Greek Meze, Another Selection Of Wonderful Little Bites. Scroll down to the end of the post and you will find a table spread of all the 10 meze, the names of the meze and links to recipes that I have already posted.

Slow Cooked Octopus In A Sherry Vinegar Garlic Marinade

Prep: 10 minutes 
Cook: ~ 3 hours  +/-  30 minutes  (largely unattended)
Inactive: Overnight to marinade
Level: Moderately easy
Serves: ~2 generously as a meal or 4 as part of a meze spread
Oven Temperature:
Can recipe be doubled? Yes
Make ahead? Keeps well covered and refrigerated up to 3 days.

Ingredients

To cook the octopus
3lbs (1.36kg) frozen uncooked octopus
2 celery sticks (~3.52oz)(~100g)
1 medium size carrot (~3.52oz)(~100g)
1 medium size onion (~3.52oz)(~100g)
4 garlic cloves skins left on
1 teaspoon salt
To marinate the octopus
~ 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
~ 4 teaspoons sherry/red or white wine vinegar*
2 – 4 garlic minced (~ 3/4 Tablespoon)
~ 1/8 teaspoon oregano
~ 1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon salt
~ 1/4 teaspoon black pepper or chilli pepper
1 teaspoon minced parsley
To serve
Lemon wedges.
* Lemon would not be a good substitute as it’s not acidic enough. You could try apple cider vinegar. 


Method

1. About the only kind of frozen octopus available to me is pre-cut into rather erratic sizes. More often they are 2″ – 4″ ( 5 -10cm) pieces but then there would be some tiny, tiny pieces. It makes cooking them a bit challenging as they would not all cook within the same amount of time. So, if the ones you buy are uncut, that’s better. Slice them into roughly similar dimensions but slice the slimmer pieces slightly longer. The idea is to have the octopus cut in sizes that would help all the pieces cook within the same amount of time. Alternatively, do not cut and cook them whole. In fact, this is the way I would have preferred to cook the octopus. They would take roughly the same amount of time to cook as octopus that has been cut anyway. Moreover, left to cook whole, cooled and then sliced, you would get that lovely contrast of the white octopus flesh against the pink exterior.
2. Rinse frozen octopus briefly in water and drain. Place the drained octopus, celery sticks, carrot, 4 unpeeled garlic cloves and 1 teaspoon salt into a pot. No need to add any water. You will be surprise at how much liquid the octopus will exude. Cover the pot.
3. Turn the burner to low heat setting and let it cook slowly covered throughout the cooking process. There should be no need to add any water as long as you keep the heat to low.
4. I usually check on the octopus 2.5 hours into cooking time. I remove the largest piece I can find and taste. Is it tender? If not, cover the pot and continue cooking until it is tender. It will quite possibly need to be cooked longer. Cooking time depends partly on which sea the octopus was fished out from, the species and age of the octopus. So the octopus you bought might cook faster or even slower than the ones available to me. Do not be tempted to speed up cooking by increasing the temperature. It will toughen up the octopus.
5. Once the octopus is tender, remove the vegetables, drain the octopus and transfer into a mixing bowl.
6. Keep the vegetables and the octopus stock for other uses (scroll down to ‘Tips’ for suggestions).
7. While it is still warm, add the salt first and mix. Then, mix in the garlic and vinegar. Finally, stir in the extra virgin olive, oregano, and pepper. Adjust seasonings to suit your taste. I find that octopus does need quite a bit of salt.
8. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

To serve
1. Bring it to room temperature before serving. S
2. Serve with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and a wedge or two of lemon. Best with fresh crusty bread.

Tips

What to do with octopus stock?
Use as the a stock base in:
seafood risotto, paella, any seafood base soups/bisque, seafood coconut curry that could be drenched over noodles or rice. What about in a korean inspired spicy rice dish? If you have a rice cooker, replace water with octopus stock. Place a few tablespoons of korean chilli paste (gojujang), a tablespoon or so of soy sauce, a teaspoon or so of salt, throw in any leftover slow cooked octopus, stir, turn on the rice cooker and you will soon have a deliciously spicy and tasty carbo loaded dish to enjoy.

What to do with any leftover slow cooked octopus?
Add it into the a risotto or paella to warm through just before serving. Into a pasta or perhaps into a green salad and add some green apples to the salad as well.

What to do with the celery sticks, carrot, onions and garlic?
Eat them. They are so full of flavour!

WHAT’S COMING UP NEXT?

To end a Greek meze dinner on a not too sweet note, I like to serve black coffee with these soft Greek cookies that are flavoured with mahlep – a very aromatic spice that taste like a mix between almond essence and cherries. It is commonly used in middle eastern and greek cuisines. I love eating these.


My Greek inspired meze!

First row.
 Left to right:
Slow Cooked Octopus In A Sherry Vinegar Garlic Marinade,
Moussaka – Baked Casserole Of Eggplants, Tomatoey Meat Topped With A Creamy White Sauce,

Santorini Fava A Delicious Yellow Split Peas Dip,
Grilled & Marinated Peppers With Fig Balsamic Cream
Second row. Left to right:
Greek Inspired Harissa-Style Hot Chilli Sauce To Go With Olives,
5 Minutes Grilled Cheese Meze,
Santorini Tomatoey Tomato Balls/Fritters
Third row. Left to right:
Crispy Whitebait And Sweet Onions Disk,
Pork Souvlaki Kebabs Skewers,
Tzatziki A Cucumber Yogurt Dip,
Oh So Soft Pita Bread

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