Saturday, 16 November 2013

Pieces of Eight!

Polpo & Finocchio alla Griglia con Crema di Ceci al Annato
Grilled Octopus and Fennel on a Cream of Chickpea & Annato

Octopus- eek! I guess I am doing a few "love 'em or leave 'em" dishes lately, but this is one that I definitely loved! Crispy-fried on a grill-pan, flavored with ginger, lemon and thyme, and served on a bed of creamy, annato flavored chickpea purée- this was delicious and different and so good for so many reasons!

The main reason I liked this was that it was made relatively quickly in just half an hour, was easy and stress-free to prepare and as I said- it is just so different! The annato makes the chickpea cream delicious and Mexican inspired- a warm a mild accompaniment for the crispy octopus. I like the dish also because is uses very, very little fat- and you do not miss it for a second. And I also love it- just because it tastes so fantastic and looks so wonderful! Enough said?

Of course not, as I know you want to know how to prepare this- so here goes! 

First things first- the octopus needs to be steamed or boiled, so I chose to steam mine, which I think is the best method, for 20 minutes. This was a small octopus as you can see, so that was plenty of time for it to get nice and tender.

In the meantime, I prepared the chickpea cream, which is something that can hardly be called cooking it was so simple- lol! I boiled up some water in a kettle and whilst it was heating up, spooned 2 tablespoons of chickpea flour and 1 teaspoon of annato or achiote powder into a bowl and dissolved them into about 1 cupful of water, which I added little by little and stirred, quite simply with a fork. As soon as it was all nicely dissolved, into a saucepan it went, onto the heat, and once again, I added water- this time boiling hot, little by little, until it was absorbed by the chickpea flour and thickened up to a creamy consistency.

I seasoned the cream with salt, pepper, a little powdered ginger, a little powdered garlic, a squeeze of lime juice and hint of cayenne. It soon thickened up dramatically, in a similar way that polenta does, and so I had to balance adding a little more water until it was a thick but creamy and light consistency... and then I let it simmer at a very low heat, whilst I got ready to prepare the fennel.

By now, I was half-way through the steaming of the octopus- 15 minutes had gone by, and for the following 5 minutes of steaming, I popped a few nice slices of fennel into the saucepan, onto the steam rack, right next to the octopus. This would give it a chance to partially cook before it was time to get it sizzling on the grill pan- which was the very next thing on my agenda!

I made sure that both the octopus and the fennel were quite dry and then popped them onto a very hot grill pan with a drizzle of olive oil. I seasoned with salt, pepper, a little lime juice and just a hint of paprika powder, added a twig of thyme and a few slices of garlic to the pan and let it sizzle, snap, crackle and pop for 4-5 minutes, flipping it over and pressing it down as required to get everything nicely and evenly fried and delicious.

I served up the octopus on chickpea purée with a grind of fresh black pepper and plenty of fresh thyme- the other had become a little dark during frying... plus the flavor of the 
fresh, green thyme was so much more vibrant and delicious.

As easy as it looks complicated, a down-to-earth as it looks crazy- this is one I hope you will try and love! It's one I will be making again for sure!

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