Tuesday, 8 July 2014


 Baby Octopus heads cooked in a mixture of mirepoix & squid ink and marinated in olive brine served with Extra Virgin  cold-pressed Olive oil, Red chilli paste and micro Oregano leaves.  

                 This Mediterranean inspired hors d'oeuvre was a clever use of a by-product to another dish. So if you haven't guessed it by now, you are looking at baby octopus heads that look like olives and not black olives stuffed with octopus. I was experimenting with a Japanese dish that only required the tentacles of the octopuses and was left with the severed heads, when I remembered I had archived a recipe I'd seen for olive brined octopus heads about 4 or 5 years ago. These brined heads are absolutely divine for someone that enjoys seafood and mediterranean flavours. If you like marinated octopus are baby octopus grilled on the barbecue then this is a must try as it takes the ordinary marinated octopus for a ride, its fantastic with crusty bread rubbed with a clove of garlic or just on their own with the accompaniments of a good olive oil, some chilli paste and fresh oregano. I think next time that I purchase baby octopus I will be looking for a recipe to make something with the tentacles which will become the by-product of the heads used for this dish. The recipe below has been scaled for about 12-15 octopus heads and could quite possible do enough for 30-35 heads.
                 To make the olive brined black octopus heads was a journey of anticipation the whole time, beginning with placing the washed severed octopus heads into a small saucepan together with mirepoix sauteed in butter which are aromatics, a combination of diced celery (1 stick), carrot (1 small) and onion (1 small) . I also added 1 bay leaf, sprigs of fresh thyme, a piece of orange peel zest, salt, pepper, enough water to cover the heads, which for me was 1 metric cup and 1 tbsp of squid ink. This was simmered gently on a low heat for an hour covered. While this was happening my mouth was salivating from the smell in the air and after an hour I was ready to just make pasta and run the octopus and its sauce through the pasta and just eat them then and their. I strained the contents of the saucepan, discarding the solids except for reserving the now shrunken octopus heads and returning the strained liquid back to the stove and reduced the liquid down to a syrupy consistency of about 2-3 tablespoons in quantity. I returned the heads back to the saucepan of reduced liquid to coat them in the sauce, this was then allowed to cool completely. Then in a sterilised jar with fitting lid a scraped the heads and the contents of the saucepan and poured in enough olive brine from brined olives to cover the heads, about 1/2 a cup. I then screwed the lid of the jar on tight before shaking the contents and placing in the fridge to marinate for 24 hours, shaking every 6-8 hours to mix the squid ink which tends to sink to the bottom. A day latter the heads had blackened a bit, but to get the black shiny look I coated the heads in a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice and warmed squid ink just before serving. The oregano was from the garden and is a white greek variety, the chilli paste is just that red chillies pureed to a paste.

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