Sometimes I like to throw caution into the wind and go way out of my comfort zone, testing myself to see what I can and can't do. I guess that is what makes cooking so fun, if you make a mistake you learn from it and improve on it so the next time it will be better. Just before lockdown was enforced, I bought some fresh Scottish Octopus from Creelers, who are based in the West Coast of Scotland and trade regularly at the Edinburgh Farmers Market. I called them to see if they had any in stock and it happened to be that they had caught a few. Tim from Creelers kindly kept two aside for me and off I went, on a journey into the unknown world of Cephalapods.
I have had Octopus twice in my life, well technically once. The first encounter was when I was a kid on holiday and I ordered the "calamari". Because I knew it all back then, I was adamant I was ordered fried squid rings and despite not listening to my mums advice, I was dead set on eating my beloved fried squid. Unbeknownst to me, I had actually ordered a whole steamed octopus so when the waiter brought it to the table I flat out refused to eat it and my mum swapped her pizza for it.....what a hero.
My second experience was a slightly more enjoyable and it was only in the Summer of 2019 on holiday to Zakynthos I ordered myself an epic seafood platter and Octopus was on the menu. It was delicious, mouthwatering in fact that I felt sad when it was over because each bit was super tender and the char from the grill gave it a lovely flavour. With this in mind, I wanted to create a light dish that captured the feeling of being on holiday and with the weather being incredibly nice (for Scotland). I made a punchy flavoured pesto using Few Flowered Garlic that was foraged near my house, whilst the dressing was packed with citrus, oregano and lemon thyme from my garden.
Anyhoo, less of the rambling, here is my recipe:
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 50 mins
1 whole octopus
1 echalion shallot, thinly sliced
100g Few Flowered Garlic/Wild Garlic
2 tbsp Pomoroa Al Limone Olive Oil
2 tsp fresh oregano, minced
2 tsp fresh lemon thyme, minced
Preparing a whole octopus isn't as daunting as you would think. If you can source one from your fishmonger that has already been prepared then skip to the boiling part, if not then please read.
Step One: Place your whole Octopus on a chopping board and lay it out flat. Cut just underneath the eyes to remove the tentacles and the cut just above the eyes to separate the sac. Discard the section with the eyes so that you are left with the tentacles and sac. Turn the sac inside out with your thumbs and remove the heart (dont worry, it is all contained and free of any mess), you can do trhis with your hands, Next, remove the skin from the outside of the sac and discard it, placing the meat to one side. Grab the tentacles in two hands and turn inside out, with the white flesh facing away from you. Using your thumbs, push the beak out through it's mouth and remove (you may need a small knife to detach it).
Step Two: Add the octopus to a pan of boiling salted water and boil for 40 minutes. You will know the meat it tender by poking the thickest part of the tentacle with a knife, it should cut through the meat with ease. Once cooked, drain and place to one side.
Step Three: As the octopus boils away, use this time to make your pesto and dressing. Given the short lifespan of Few Flowered Garlic, it may not be in season but you can make your own pesto by replacing the Wild Garlic with 100g Basil and 3 cloves garlic.
For the pesto: Add your few flowered garlic, hazelnuts, parmesan and oil to a blender and blitz. Season with salt and pepper to taste and pulse one more time. Pour into a container and refrigerate.
For the dressing: In a bowl, add 2 tbsp Al Limone Olive oil, Oregano, Lemon Thyme, freshly chopped Few Flowered Garlic and Shallots. Mix well and place to one side.
Step Four: Cut the cooked tentacles and sac into pieces then coat them in some Al Limone oil. Place under a hot grill and grill for 4 minutes either side, allow for a bit of char.
Step Five: Place a handful of shallots on your plate and top with freshly grilled octopus. Drizzle the dressing on top and spoon some of the pesto ovber the dish.