Taramasalata

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Taramasalata is a thick, creamy dip, popular in Greek cuisine, made with salted fish roe and oil, usually served as a meze dish or as a starter.

When looking for recipes for a traditional dish that I have never made, I normally check different versions and compare them, and then I make my own version based on a comparison of what I’ve found, adding my twist if I believe that improvements can be made.
For tamarasalata, as usual, I have found some elements that pretty much all recipes have in common (fish roe, olive oil and some bread for the texture), and others that were used only in certain versions (some use garlic, others onion or shallot, others milk or cream).
Since I actually believe that all of this ingredients can give something to this dish, as long as they are treated in the right way and used in the right proportion, I have decided to include all of them, but with some changes:
Garlic: all the recipes I’ve found call for raw garlic; since raw garlic can be overpowering, a technique that can be used to make it milder is blanching: simply put the garlic cloves in a pot with cold water and bring it to the boil. As soon as it starts boiling, transfer the garlic in a bowl of cold (or even iced) water. This operation should be repeated three times.
Milk: for this recipe, however, I have boiled the garlic in water twice; the third time I have boiled it in milk and cooked it until the milk was reduced by half; this leaves soft garlic cloves that have lost all of their aggressive (so to speak) character, and a nicely scented garlic-infused milk
Onion: all the recipes that I’ve seen used raw onion or shallot. Raw onion, a bit like garlic, has got a very strong flavour and is not everyone’s cup of tea (and definitely not mine). The only type of onion that I eat raw in salads is red onion; furthermore, taramasalata should have a nice pinkish colour, and red onion contributes to this as well.

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INGREDIENTS:

200g salted cod roe
50g stale white bread, crusts removed
50ml extra virgin olive oil
100 ml semi skimmed milk*
4 garlic cloves
1 tsp. red onion, finely chopped
1 pinch of parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp. lemon juice

*: NOTE: that is the initial quantity, but it should be reduced by half when you use it
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The process is quite simple:

  • Soak the roe in cold water for about an hour
  • In the meantime, blanche the garlic as described above and let the milk cool down
  • Soak the bread in the milk
  • Rinse and drain the roe thoroughly, cut in half lengthways, then, with the skin side down on a board, scrape the roe off the skin with a knife
  • Places the roe, garlic, onion and bread in a food processor and blend
  • Add the lemon juice and the oil in a thin stream and keep blending until the desired texture has been reached
  • Taste to adjust the seasoning if it’s the case

You can serve it with toasted pitta bread and/or crudités

Octopus Salad

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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
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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
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  6. Add the vegetables and a generous handful of finely chopped parsley to the octopus and mix them together.