Stewed Octopus with Vegetables, Thyme & Mint
A cold yet sunny day today in Frankfurt- weather that reminded me of the Southern sun down in Sicily- but had the fresh, Frankfurt temperatures that still made it good to be back indoors after a couple of hours outside!
So I decided to make something nice and Mediterranean when I got home, to warm me up and to keep those memories fresh in my mind... and what a treat it was too!
This was one of those "all in one pot" affairs, where all the flavors reduced down together, with nothing added and nothing taken away but the few simple ingredients that went in there and a few fresh herbs- and the result was simply divine!
One small octopus- about as big as your hand, 1 stalk of celery, 2 small carrots, 1 red pepper, 1 onion, a handful of cherry tomatoes, a handful of potato- (either small ones as I have here, or 1 large one cut into chunks) and a little fresh mint and parsley- that's all it took to make!
The resulting broth/sauce is so delicious- either to simply mash down the potatoes and soak it up with or for dipping some nice crusty bread into... and the octopus itself is as soft and tender as those vegetables by the time it is done- just perfect!
Start off by chopping up the octopus into nice pieces- not too small as it will shrink considerably during cooking.
Start the octopus frying in a good splash of olive oil whilst you prepare the vegetables- as you can see, after 5 minutes it has already given off a lot of liquid! This is excellent- it is what your stew is going to cook in and is full of flavor. Down in the south, we say that the octopus should cook only in its own juices- and that's exactly what we are going to do- do further liquid goes into your saucepan (or tajine in my case), at all.
Cut the vegetables up nice and chunky- they are going to be in that pot or saucepan for the next hour after all!
As soon as you are ready, add the vegetables, a handful of cherry tomatoes, a few sprigs of thyme and plenty of salt and pepper... then pop on the lid and let everything simmer away for 10-15 minutes.
After that time, give it a stir and then replace the lid and let it simmer on. Check how it is coming along every 10-15 minutes, give it a little stir now and then and let is cook for 1 hour in all.
1 hour later, as you can see- all of the thyme leaves have fallen from the stems and have flavored everything richly and wonderfully and the vegetables AND the octopus are soft and tender. Plus of course, you have a nice, tomato/vegetable/octopus sauce already in there to spoon over the top when you serve it up... yum-yum!
The finishing touch is some finely shredded, fresh mint, a drizzle of olive oil and some freshly ground pepper... so good, I wish I had another plateful of it right now, even as I type...
The first time I had octopus with mint was this Summer, in Lecce, Puglia, in the south of Italy... a surprising and wonderful flavor to add... especially in combination with thyme- which I first tasted in combination with octopus in Siracuse, Sicily... like I said- the taste of the South!
Grab a hunk of bread, pour a glass of wine... and enjoy!