Thursday, 8 September 2011

O is for... Octopus "carpaccio"




Once the beast was definitely dead, it was time to turn this octopus into carpaccio, which usually means finely sliced raw meat or fish, but according to my research, in the case of octopus, it should be boiled for hours on end before any knives need sharpening. 

The octopus carpaccio we ate in Rome definitely had its suckers on but, in a fit of confusion, I decided to follow the advice of Gordon Ramsay and scrape the suckers and skin off its tentacles after boiling. Essentially, all old Ramsay's recipe requires you to do is to tightly pack your tentacles in a lined mould and pour over some of the reserved octopus stock (which looks a bit like Sailor Matey bathwater that you've dropped a bar of soap in - when the colour remains, but the bubbles don't). Once you've done that, you're supposed to tightly wrap it into a sausage shape and then bung weights on top of it and stick it in the fridge. Gordon seems sure that the octopus will hold together if you follow this advice. Gordon is wrong. I think if I'd left the suckers on it might have worked, because they're a bit sticky. But I didn't leave the suckers on. I listened to Gordon Ramsay. 

My carpaccio did not hold together in a big homogenous tubular mass that could then be sliced into delicate, paper-thin and pretty rounds. My carpaccio instantly fell apart. My octopus's tentacles refused to stick together, and so I was left with lots of tiny little circles of finely cut tentacle meat. I dressed these rounds with a fresh and tangy lemon, chilli and parsley vinaigrette and it was delicious. Light, succulent and summery, my octopus carpaccio might not have held together, but this was purely a presentation issue. When something tastes this good, who cares what it looks like?

Octopus carpaccio

1 large octopus (trimmed, beak and stomach removed and cleaned)
1 whole, unpeeled onion 
A couple of carrots, cut into large chunks
A stick of celery, cut into large chunks
1 leek, cut into large chunks
A couple of bay leaves
A bunch of flat leaf parsley
1 large glass of white wine
A scattering of peppercorns
Enough water to cover the octopus.

Place your octopus in a large pot with your onion and then pop the other vegetables and herbs around it. Add enough cold water to cover the octopus and bring up to the boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and leave to simmer for four to five hours. Remove from the stock and leave to cool.

Once cold, cut off the tentacles and discard the body. You can try making the carpaccio as described above, or you can leave the suckers on and follow the instructions above. Leave the tightly rolled cling film sausage in the fridge for a few hours before carving. 

Vinaigrette

The juice of half a lemon
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 red chilli, finely chopped
A handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
Half a clove of garlic, minced
Salt and pepper

Mix the ingredients together until fully combined. Taste. Add more seasoning, lemon juice or whatever it needs. Plate up the octopus carpaccio and liberally dress with vinaigrette.

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