Over the past few years octopus is more popular on menus around Britain, but it’s always been a part of Mediterranean cuisine. As with many great products, the octopus is really versatile, whether it’s braised, barbecued, pickled or, as in this recipe, served in a salad. When you come across octopus in the UK it will most likely have been frozen, but that’s actually a good thing as the freezing process helps to tenderise the meat. When you’re cooking octopus, make sure the water is just simmering when you add it, or the beautiful colour will be lost.
500g raw octopus, cleaned with head and eyes removed, but the tentacles left attached (ask your fishmonger to do this for you, or if you buy it frozen, allow to thaw in the fridge)
1 lemon, cut in half
1 tablespoon black peppercorns, lightly crushed
1kg live mussels, cleaned (page 25) and soaked in cold water to cover for 20 minutes
2 shallots, finely chopped
125 ml dry white wine
60g podded broad beans
2 garlic cloves, crushed
800g cooked cannellini beans, drained and rinsed if tinned
100g cherry tomatoes, quartered
60g stoned black olives, sliced
a handful of basil leaves, torn
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
To cook the octopus, first bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil with the lemon and peppercorns. As soon as it boils, turn the heat down so the water is just simmering. Add the octopus to the water and pop a plate on top to keep it submerged, then simmer for 90 minutes, or until it’s tender. It’s really important that the octopus does not boil, as this will ruin the lovely skin. Once cooked, leave the octopus to cool, uncovered, in the stock.
Meanwhile, cook the mussels and blanch the broad beans. Drain the mussels and discard any that do not snap shut when tapped. Heat a large heavy-based saucepan with a tight-fitting lid over a medium-high heat, then add a splash of oil. When it is hot, add half the shallots and sauté for about 1 minute. Add the mussels and wine and give them a good stir. Cover the pan and boil for 3 minutes, or until all the mussels open. Drain the mussels, then discard any that are not open. Set the remainder aside.
To blanch the broad beans, bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and place a bowl of iced water in the sink. Add the beans to the boiling water and blanch for 3 minutes, then drain well. Immediately tip them into the iced water to stop the cooking and set the colour. When they are cool, drain them again, shake off any excess water and set aside.
When the octopus is cool enough to handle, use a slotted spoon to transfer it to a chopping board and dice the body, but leave the tentacles whole. Place it in a bowl, add the garlic cloves, season with salt and pepper and pour over enough olive oil to cover.
In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining shallots, cannellini beans, tomatoes, olives, and the blanched broad beans. Now add the octopus mixture and a couple of tablespoons of sherry vinegar, to taste, and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Scatter with the basil leaves. The salad is best eaten fresh, but you can cover and chill for up to 4 hours, just remember to remove it from the fridge 15 minutes before serving.
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