About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Monday, March 19, 2007
Barbecued Octopus
In a recent post, I mentioned something about barbequed octopus and received an email about how to go about it. Well the first bit of advice I have concerning octopus is make sure it's dead...very dead. There is a rather notorious post written by Eddie Lin of Deep End Dining that captures every wiggle and squirm of live octopus tentacles as Eddie tries to eat them and the veiled warning that you could in fact die from attempting such a thing if the tentacle managed to attach itself to the inside of your throat in its attempt to not be eaten.

So that's the first requirement - one dead octopus.

Secondly, we're not talking about baby octopus either, what's needed are the large specimens that you often see on ice at specialist seafood retailers, nestling up to the squid. Now if you like, get your fishmonger to cut off the tentacles, because you won't be needing the head part either, but it's very easy to cut the tentacles off yourself, then the tentacles need to be thoroughly washed of slime and any loose bits encouraged to fall off.

Now large specimens of octopus have a bit of a reputation of being a bit tough and chewy, personally I think it's part of the charm, but others are not so forgiving and over the centuries ways have been devised to tenderise the tentacles, this from La Tant Claire by Pierre Koffmann as he observed a fisherman in the act of tenderising an octopus...

'...(I) was watching a fisherman repeatedly hurling a dead octopus on to the stones of the quayside in order to soften its tentacles, and to make them more palatable. Each time the creature hit the pavement it made a noise like a revolver shot, and this was the sound that first attracted my attention. A small crowd collected to watch the fisherman and maintain a critical running commentary on his technique. A large, dead, wet octopus is very heavy, and its slime makes it difficult to grip. The man got hold of it, walked away a few yards, turned, and, with a great effort, threw it up into the air as high as he could. Down it came with a resounding crack. The fisherman then walked slowly around it, preparing himself for the effort of the next heave, and, like a skilled artist, gripped it again, braced himself, and hurled it up once more. Between each throw he did a slow, jaunty little walk which brought the whole thing into the realm of theatrical performance. The octopus must have soared up into the air and landed flat on the stones a good twenty or thirty times before the fisherman was finally satisfied.'

Now I don't think that any of you should engage in such behaviour, you might finish up wearing a very tight fitting jacket! Do you think anyone is going to believe you when you say, "But doctor, I was just tenderising my octopus..." If you were concerned to tenderize it, you could try lightly hitting it with the flat side of a meat tenderizer mallet, not too hard as it does squish fairly easily, or simply do as I do and marinate it with some lemon juice and oil for an hour. But the real secret of tender octopus is not to overcook it. To this end, you need your barbeque to be cranked up as hot as you can get it, the heat needs to be fierce to quickly char the outside and cook it through in the minimum of time. Octopus is similar to squid in the way that the cooking is either short and sweet for a few minutes, or slow and easy for about an hour, anything else renders it tough and rubbery.

The flavours of the Mediterranean seem best suited to this style of cooking, especially Greek flavours and if you like to eat it meze style, a small glass of Ouzo will just about transport you to the sparkling blue shores of some deserted island...

Barbequed Octopus

1 kg octopus tentacles
2 lemons, juiced
200 ml olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
salt and fresh ground pepper

Thoroughly wash the tentacles removing all the slime and any debris that falls away and dry thoroughly. Place in a marinating dish and pour over the oil and lemon juice, add the oregano and seasoning - leave in a cool place for an hour, no more as the lemon juice will cook the flesh. Heat your barbeque as hot as you can and place the marinaded tentacles on the grill bars. The flesh will change colour to dark red in parts, as well as pick up char marks. Cook for one to two minutes, depending on the thickness, before turning over and charring the other side. Goes well with a Greek salad.


  posted at 2:56 pm

At 8:34 am, Blogger Gigi said...

I am going to try this for my next dinner party, only I must insist on tenderizing the octopus exactly as your fisherman did, slapping it around on my little backyard patio just so.

And I'm going to serve my guests lots of ouzo, where they'll sit on three-legged stools in the soft grass. It will be the best party ever! :)

At 10:54 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I absolutely love barbequed octopus, it's a regular when we have the bbq going, except instead of oregano we have a small mountain of chilli chucked in :)

At 1:16 pm, Blogger MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Only you Neil would turn up such a fisherman story to tenderize an octopus! That is way out wild. Sorry I must skip the Ouzo.

At 5:43 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi gigi, I think that's one party I'd like to be at, but I would have to be careful not to slip over on the patio, never mind the stools.

Hi ellie, mmmm, chile, do you use any other flavours?

Hi tanna, I guess it takes a fisherman to know a fisherman, it's a nice story too.

At 9:44 am, Blogger paul kennedy said...

Sometimes they marinate it afterwards, not sure why.

At 9:57 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi kitchen hand, I've heard that Greeks do a few things backwards. Do you mean the pickled octopus you can find in jars?


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