As octopus are made up of a high percentage of water, it's always recommended to freeze them as part of the tenderising process, or buy them already frozen.
Sweet, gentle-flavoured baby octopus marinated and simmered in a passata, white wine and brandy sauce.
- 2 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 kg (2 lb 3 oz) baby octopus
- fine sea salt
- 60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- 80 ml (2½ fl oz/⅓ cup) brandy
- 50 g (1¾ oz) butter
- 3 onions, sliced
- 1 star anise
- 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) dry white wine
- 125 ml (4 fl oz/1½ cup) passata (puréed tomatoes)
- 1 tsp sweet pimentòn
- 3 garlic cloves, sliced
- 150 ml (5 fl oz) good-quality fish stock or water
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Soaking time: 15 minutes
Cooling time: 2 hours-overnight
- Coarsely crush the peppercorns using a mortar and pestle and set aside. Submerge the baby octopus in 2 litres (2 qts) of water mixed with 2 teaspoons of salt, and set aside for 15 minutes. Drain.
- Heat half the oil in a large frying pan over high heat until very hot. Working in batches and taking care not to let the octopus ignite, cook the octopus for 4 minutes, then remove from the pan using a slotted spoon. Add the final batch of octopus, the bay leaf, the ground peppercorns and brandy and sauté for 4 minutes or until the alcohol has evaporated. Remove from the pan and add to the rest of the octopus.
- Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil and the butter in a separate frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion with a pinch of salt and sauté for 5 minutes. Stir through the star anise and white wine, then cover and cook for 10 minutes or until the onion is soft. Remove the lid once the liquid has evaporated, then stir through the passata and pimentòn for 5 minutes. Add the sautéed octopus and stir to combine, then add the garlic and stock or water, bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes or until reduced.
- This dish is best cooled to room temperature and then left overnight in the fridge to really bring the flavours together (there’s something about the gelatine in the octopus that relaxes and leaches into the sauce, so you really notice the difference), but if you’re short on time, you can let it cool for 2 hours before reheating and serving.
Recipes and images from Islas: Food of the Spanish Islands by Emma Warren, Smith Street Books, RRP $49.99