Friday, 31 March 2017

a quick, delicious octopus stew

A quick octopus stew with loads of flavour.

I have to confess I made this octopus stew ages ago. I loved how it turned out, and I was so incredibly proud of myself. Yet I never got around to posting it, for a rather silly reason.

See, because I was so pleased with myself for creating something so delicious, I took way too many pictures of the darned thing, and then I got overwhelmed at the thought of sifting through all that, so I left it for another day... and another... and another. This is also why it's taking me so long to finish blogging about all my 2014 travels, and why I never blogged about my degustation lunch at Vue de Monde. Too many photos!

So anyway, retracing my steps - I was at the market that day, and I decided to forgo the baby octopus from Thailand in favour of a portion of Australian octopus instead. The fishmonger cleaned a single large tentacle for me, and frankly I had a bit of sticker shock when it came to $16. But I gracefully paid for it while mentally telling myself I better make something good to make the cost worthwhile.

I ended up making this octopus stew and I surpassed my own expectations - it was sensational. If I ever compile a list of my best recipes, this one's definitely making an appearance.

Thus I dare say this is a great dish to try out, and really quite easy even if you're starting off as someone who isn't very confident on how to cook octopus. The trick here is gentle cooking - this is a dish you cook tenderly, for tender results. Vigorous boiling will result in tough octopus, so you want to keep it at a soft simmer until it's just cooked, and even though I call this a stew, the whole process doesn't take long at all.

Beautiful seafood flavours tangle with sweet and tart notes in this savoury stew, and it reminds me a bit of French bouillabaisse and Spanish zarzuela, but far simpler. I did not bother to tenderize the octopus before cooking, but as we are using an acidic tomato broth here, I suppose the octopus is essentially tenderizing in it as it cooks. Either way, the result is lovely and yielding, with just the right amount of spring and bite. Grab some crusty bread to mop up the thickened broth at the end, and you're all set.

A fresh octopus tentacle.

a quick, delicious octopus stew
(serves 1 as a main)

250 - 300g octopus tentacle (1/2 - 2/3lb), cut into bite-sized pieces
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon chopped chilli (adjust amount based on variety of chilli and individual preferences)
1 cup cherry tomatoes (about 125g or 4.5oz), halved
1 small red onion or shallot (about 90g or 3oz)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional, for a smoky flavour)
1/4 teaspoon sugar (optional, helps balance the broth if it is too acidic)
1/8 cup basil leaves
salt and pepper, to taste

Cook garlic and chilli over low heat for about 1 minute. Add red onion or shallot. Stir and cook for 2 minutes. Throw in cherry tomatoes, turn the heat up a little, and cook for another 2 minutes.
Pour in balsamic vinegar along with 1/4 cup water. Allow the mixture to bubble over low to medium heat 12 minutes until the tomatoes are soft and releasing their juices.
Stir in the chopped octopus tentacles, and let them softly simmer for about 3 minutes or until opaque, turning them occasionally.
Remove from heat, and fold in basil leaves. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve! Enjoy this delectable stew on its own, or with crusty bread.

If you're after an easy octopus stew that tastes fantastic, this is it!

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