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Octopus Wrestling Made Easy

2 years ago, when I was in Madrid, my friends Sergio and Xell took me to a food market to enjoy some authentic local Spanish dishes. One dish that was so amazingly simple yet mind-blowingly delicious was Octopus with Olive Oil and Parsley. Together with some Spanish fizzy cider, I had one of the best meals ever.

But like many of you, I imagined that wrestling with an octopus on my cooking table was a daunting task. Almost all of us will have had experience of chewy octopus. In the culinary world, we know the stronger the muscles, the tougher and harder is the meat. If you have seen the episode on how an octopus strangled the shark to death on National Geographic, you can imagine how tough their muscles are. Although we are not going to deal with any giant octopus, still cooking one can be frustrating to lots of people because it is something easily over cooked and you will end up with a plate of rubber.

The basic technique to handle these tough muscles is to allow it to cook very slowly at low heat so the muscle will break down nicely. And frozen octopus is more forgiving than the fresh one. I'm not sure if it is because the muscle fibres get broken down when frozen or if it's the icy body that keeps the water at lower temperature during the cooking process. So you can get a frozen octopus or freeze a fresh octopus before you cook it. Once this is done, then you can follow this recipe:

1kg - 1.5kg Frozen octopus

Juice of 1 lemon

1 Bay leaf

Handful of parsley and thyme

Enough water to cover the octopus

To dress the Octopus after it's cooked:

30ml Extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp lemon juice

Handful of chopped parsley

Salt and pepper to taste


1. Combine herbs, lemon juice, octopus and water in a pot. Cover and cook in oven at 160c for approx 1 hour 30 mins. If you don't have an oven, you can simmer it gently over a stove top for about the same time. Remove from heat once it's tender.

2. You can choose to serve it warm as it is or chill it for later use. If you decide to chill it for later use, make sure you add some of the cooking liquid in a bowl, cover and chill in fridge.

3. If you find some slimy skin on your octopus, scrape it clean with the back of your knife then cut into 1" pieces. Toss in olive oil, chopped parsley and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.

A few tips in making this dish: I would recommend you use a whole octopus - if you only have a portion then adjust the cooking time accordingly. As there are not a lot of elements in this dish, every flavor is so naked for you to taste, so I suggest you use fresh ingredients including herbs to bring out the freshness of this light and delicate dish.

PS this recipe is FODMAP and Gluten-free friendly.

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