Octopus with Ras el Hanout on Pepper & Olive Couscous
I decided I deserved a little treat today. The week had been a tough one, the weather was still cold and unfriendly and I was frankly feeling a little bit beat. To make things worse, there was nothing that really caught my attention today at the market hall! Oh, I managed to find a couple of nice things, which you will see in the following week... but still... that special highlight was somehow missing today...
So I went onwards and outwards, braving the rain, to the fishmongers- where I hooked myself this pretty little monster for this evenings supper- and already things were looking up today! I am not much of a fish fan- although I do make a few exceptions... but offer me octopus, squid, scallops, shrimps or prawns and I'm your man! At first I was worried that this little buddy was going to be too much for one person, for one meal, but too little if halved- but nope- he turned out just fine and was eaten a lot more quickly than he was cooked!
Now that I have figured out a foolproof method for preparing octopus- of course I am going to stick to it... but I will share it with you again of course! Basically I prepared this the same way I did last time, by first steaming it for 45 minutes, generally speaking, and then flash-frying or grilling it at a high heat and adding the flavors at the last minute. There are 2 ways to cook octopus- either at a very high heat for a very short time- 2-3 minutes at the most, or by steaming or boiling for a long time. Anything in-between will just become rubbery, tough and like chewing on a bicycle tyre. I have tried the fast method and still ended up with rubber- so trust me on this- steaming is the way to go! It also gives you time to prepare your side dish- which was couscous in this case. But being as my octopus was actually pretty small today, I reduced the time to 30 minutes- still plenty of time to make that couscous!
For the couscous, I started off by finely dicing a half each of a red, yellow and green bell pepper. I sautéed them briefly in a little olive oil, with a hint of crushed garlic and some finely chopped onion. In the meantime I boiled a little water, finely chopped a good handful of parsley and squeezed myself the juice of half a lemon. All I needed to do now was to put it together! As soon as the onion was translucent, I added the couscous, parsley and lemon juice, stirred them together with the peppers and seasoned with salt, pepper and a little cayenne, then poured in enough boiling water to deglaze the pan and cover the couscous and peppers.
Then I turned off the heat and turned my attention to the octopus- which by now was finished too and had turned from a pale grey-white to a deep red blush- so pretty!
I cut the tentacles apart, sliced the sac into rings and got a little olive oil bubbling away in my frying pan- then in it went! I quickly flipped it about to make sure it was nicely coated all over. I then seasoned it with salt and coarsely ground black pepper, and a generous sprinkle of Ras el Hanout rouge powder, which immediately smelled incredible and gave the octopus a lovely golden touch. I kept it moving so that it would brown on all side, but kept the heat high as I wanted to make a short affair of this, and not end up damaging all of the good work that the steaming had done in making it lovely and tender, as too long in the frying pan may well cause it to dry out and become tough all over... and I didn't want that!
I squeezed a little lemon onto it and added just the tiniest pinch of sugar before turning off the heat, so that there would be a hint of sweet and sour to it as well as the crispy outside and tender inside... and thats what made this so special! Spicy, crispy and tender all at the same time! And together with the mild and refreshing couscous- a pretty wonderful is simple dish!
I hope you like the looks of it too- and of course the flavor should you try it yourselves... which I highly recommend!