Octopus Salad

This is a firm favourite in our home, with the adults anyway. This is a very traditional Dalmatian recipe, with the red wine, though making it without potatoes is actually more typical of the Istrian peninsula. If you love octopus I would urge you to give this a go as it really is very easy. You actually don’t need any experience in the kitchen whatsoever. It’s just a long slow simmer for the octopus with some aromatics, then you assemble the salad. The octopus itself is soft and tender as butter, and you could add some boiled sliced potatoes if you need to feed a bigger crowd. {If you are adding potatoes keep some of the cooking water from the octopus and add it to the salad when dressing, as potatoes will soak up a lot of the dressing.}

Please note: the octopus will need tenderising. The easiest way to do this is to freeze it for at least 24 hours prior to cooking. Make sure it is fully defrosted before you cook it.

what you need

  • one large octopus, about 2 kg, head cleaned and beak removed {ask your fishmonger to do this if it hasn’t been done already}
  • one brown onion, peeled and quartered
  • 4 to 5 cloves of garlic, crushed and skin removed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a handful of fresh parsley, stems and all
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • a generous splash of extra virgin olive oil
  • 500 ml dry red wine {although I have been known to empty the whole bottle in for a big sucker}

To assemble the salad:

  • a few tablespoons of chopped parsley
  • pitted and sliced olives, whichever you prefer
  • salted capers, rinsed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • extra virgin olive oil

what to do

1. Begin preparing the salad a few hours before you plan to serve it. Put the octopus, onion, garlic, bay leaves, parsley, peppercorns, olive oil, and red wine into a large pot. Add enough cold water to cover the octopus completely. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook gently for about two hours, or until a skewer inserted into the head of the octopus slides through very easily. When there is no resistance at all in the octopus remove it from the pot and transfer to a large plate to cool.

2. When the octopus has cooled enough to handle it, peel away any loose skin or dark slimy bits {you’ll see what I mean}, and chop it all into bite size pieces. Put all the chopped octopus into a bowl, add the olives, parsley, and capers. {Add the potatoes now if using.} Season well with salt and pepper and some olive oil, and taste to see if it needs more of anything. I also like some lemon juice on mine. Serve warm.

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