It’s probably one of the slimiest, nastiest, weirdest things you can cook, but fact is I LOVE octopus.
Not only is it a very typical dish in Portugal, it’s actually one of my favorite foods. It has to be proper cooked though; it’s the worst when you order it at a restaurant (it’s not usually the cheapest either) and it’s chewy, as if you’re eating rubber.
There’s loads of ways to prepare octopus: octopus rice, octopus salad, roasted octopus, etc. In some countries, I think Korea, they even eat miniature octopus alive, which I wouldn’t be able to do. I like my food to be proper dead (for instance, I can’t eat oysters).
So back to the cooked stuff. Recently I prepared a Roast “à lagareiro” Octopus. It’s a Portuguese way of cooking it, basically it’s roasted with loads of olive oil and garlic. If ever you’re thinking about trying to cook it – I know for some Brits this is a step too far in the kitchen – here’s my tips.
1. Buy a fresh octopus. I wouldn’t advise at all buying it frozen. I’ve tried that and ended up paying the same price for what turned out to be a tiny octopus.
2. Freeze it. I know it sounds silly, I just told you not to buy it frozen, but this is the way to get it good and tender. Octopuses (makes me laugh every time) have a lot of water in its composition, and apparently if you freeze it first it helps making it softer afterwards. This is not me making stuff up, it’s common knowledge provided by generations of Portuguese grandmothers.
3. Defrost. The day before the day you intend to cook it, defrost it. If you plan to cook it for lunch time, you have to remember to remove it from the freezer early the day before. Place it in a container, because I have to tell you it will be like having an Alien in your kitchen. Obviously it’s dead, but as the tentacles start unfreezing (as it’s slimy) they tend to fall apart and almost looks like it is moving. I know, scares the bejesus out of me.
4. Boil. I am pretty sure that no matter how you prepare your octopus (except Koreans) this is a mandatory step. Not 100% sure, but pretty sure. Place it in a large cooking pan, I always add some water, but some recipes suggest you don’t need it as there’s so much water in it either way. I rather be safe. I also add an onion just for taste. It takes about an hour but depends on the size of it. If you’re unsure just Google it, that’s what I do.
5. In an oven tray put olive oil and chopped garlic. A lot of it. Add one or two bay leaves as well.
6. Place the octopus in the tray and fill the tray with olive oil until almost topping the whole thing.
7. And finally put it in the oven until the oil starts bubbling.
Voila! You got yourself a brilliant “à lagareiro” Octopus. It’s yummy delicious. It’s important that you make sure you unfreeze it completely and boil it with precision as if it’s overcooked it will also be chewy. Tricky I know.
I’ve seen other recipes, where people grill it and then pour the hot olive oil on it, but I like it better this way. Suit yourself though, I won’t judge.
As for sides, the typical Portuguese dish comes with potatoes. Not just any kind, we call it ‘punched potatoes’ because, quite literally, we punch it. Boil the potatoes, not too much though, let it cool down a bit and then punch the potatoes. Easy there Hulk, you don’t want mashed potatoes, just slightly punched ones. Add it to the oven tray with the octopus and there you go. Enjoy! Bon Appetit!