Octopus Salad


INGREDIENTS (4 people)

For the emulsion:
3 tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. Lemon Juice
1 tbsp. Sherry Vinegar
2 tsp. White sugar
2 tsp. Anchovy Paste
1/2 garlic clove, minced

1 kg Octopus
1 Carrot
1 Celery stalk
6 Cherry Tomatoes, quartered
Parsley, finely chopped
Basics needed: Octopus

Octopus salad is a very popular dish in Italy. There are many different variants, pretty much every individual/family will have his own way of making it. There is one thing that all versions have in common though, and is the fact that some acidity is needed to get the best out of  the octopus, so an emulsion of extra virgin olive oil and lemon (or vinegar, or both) is normally used.

This recipe follows the same principle; however, the emulsion I use here is loosely inspired by Pad Thai, one of my favourite dishes of any cuisine. Pad Thai owes its characteristic flavour to a sauce that the Thais make mixing tamarind (for acidity), palm sugar (for sweetness) and fish or soy sauce (for saltiness and Umami). Here I replace those Asian ingredients with Western ones to obtain the same combination of tastes, although acidity will be prevalent: lemon juice and vinegar (I use Sherry vinegar as it’s got more depth of flavour than ordinary vinegar) for acidity, plain sugar for sweetness and anchovy paste for saltiness and Umami. I also add some minced garlic, for two reasons: its flavour works very well with octopus (just be careful and don’t be too liberal with it, it should not be overpowering) and also because it contains tensioactive molecules that will stabilise the emulsion.

This is the entire process:

  1. Wash, clean and boil the octopus , and let it cool down in the cooking water (see Octopus for the details)
  2. Dice the head and slice the tentacles; some people like big chunks, I prefer it cut in small pieces, with the exception of the tips of the tentacles, which I keep for presentation purposes (as you can see in the picture); put it in a bowl;
  3. Make the emulsion, whisking all the ingredients in a bowl until they are mixed and the anchovy paste has dissolved
  4. Pour the emulsion over the diced octopus, cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes, or more if time allows it (the longer, the better)
  5. When ready to serve, prepare the vegetables: after washing them, quarter the cherry tomatoes, peel the carrots and then cut them in long threads. That can be done in different ways (with a mandolin, a food processor or even a knife if you are skillful enough). Here I use a Julienne peeler, which is a very quick and effective way to obtain that result
  6. Add the vegetables and a generous handful of finely chopped parsley to the octopus and mix them together.

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