This octopus stew is richly savoury and only very mildly fishy. What I like best of all is the occasional surprise of biting on a currant or a walnut – somehow it is always a surprise though I know it is there.
pounds 1 . 5 kilo octopus, ideally a defrosted which is more tender and cooks faster
2 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons thick tomato paste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 glass red wine (white will do but red adds colour)
1 tablespoon currants or substitute smallest raisins
1 tablespoon small black olives
2 bay leaves
2 handfuls Optional: a tsp. of allspiceor cinnamon or cloves; you can also add of shelled
1. Wash the octopus and place whole in a heavy bottomed sauce pan that has a tight fitting lid. Place on lowest possible heat and leave to cook about 45 – 60 minutes. Do not check on it till at least 30 minutes have passed, the ideal is not to lift the lid at all.
2. While the octopus is cooking, shell the walnuts and chop roughly, not too small. Peel and slice the onion into thin half moons.
3. Very gently fry the garlic in the olive oil till just golden then remove. Add the sliced onions and soften gently till well wilted and softened .
4. While the onions are softening dilute the tomato paste in hot water. When it is well blended add it to the onions along with all the other ingredients: olives, currants, walnuts, bay leaf, any sweet spice you are using.
5. Leave to simmer on low heat, allowing it to reduce then topping up with a little water, till it has thickened into a good sauce consistency.
6. When the octopus is cooked through, remove and discard the liquid it has expelled, which will be too salty to use. Decide if you want to skin it or not, then chop into 5 cm pieces and add these to the tomato sauce.
7. Add the wine and simmer uncovered till the sauce has thickened again.
8. Serve with small boiled potatoes rolled in olive oil and dusted with fresh parsley or on its own with good crusty bread. We found samphire when shopping, a sea vegetable known as sea aspargus – so we used that in instead.