In a week’s time Greece will be celebrating Easter. As you probably know, in the weeks before Easter many Greeks are fasting. This means we are not supposed to eat meat or dairy products, but certain types of seafood are allowed, like octopus. In this time before Easter I would like to tell you the story behind the simplest and tastiest octopus recipe: Cooked octopus with red wine vinegar.
My uncle had a boat that was called Panagia (Virgin Mary). A very nice white and blue one that he loved like a child and treated like one. He cleaned, painted and adored it and spend a lot of time at the sea side with his boat. Very often he took it to go fishing, bringing the fish he caught back home to his beloved wife Maria.
My auntie Maria was often complaining that her husband spend too much time with his boat. She used to say that he had a lover, by which she meant the boat. The boat was the only reason my uncle would spend time away from her. But auntie Maria was happy when he arrived at home with the catch of the day, and she would be even happier when my uncle brought home an octopus.
Aunt Maria was a very good cook, but she had another cooking style than my mother. One of her most wonderful recipes was with octopus, which was so different than my mother’s or grandmother’s. My aunt was very proud when I asked her for this recipe. In the typical “my family way”, I spend a day in her house cooking, eating, drinking, laughing and learning how to make this special recipe. It was a big feast and a warm heartening day that I remember every time I cook this dish.
My uncle, sitting at the side, would correct her constantly saying that it is his recipe. She just laughed at him and made jokes that had us all laughing. I miss them so much. Of course and as usual without any invitation or asking, my mother and father came at the end of the day to try the octopus with some ouzo. They all agreed that this was a very nice recipe and that it went very well with my uncle’s fantastic ouzo.
Cooked octopus with red wine vinegar is a very easy and simple way to cook octopus, just try it. I guess all perfect recipes are simple and easy, just like my uncle and aunty.
Making cooked octopus with red wine vinegar
To start this wonderful recipe you put the octopus into a large pan with nothing else and set the flame on the lowest setting possible. Boil the octopus with the lid on for 60 minutes. With the slow cooking the octopus will boil in its own juices. Do not add any water (my aunty was saying the octopus is thirsty and will drink it all). Be careful not to add any salt, as the octopus is salty enough. Take the lid off and let the juices vaporise until you have no more liquid in the pan. When that is done, remove the octopus from the pan…
…Place it on a chopping board, cut it into small pieces and keep the juices in a bowl.
Into a very hot pan, add the olive oil and fry the octopus for only 3 minutes or until it colours. This will allow the octopus to get crispy on the outside. Deglaze with the vinegar and wait for it to evaporate. Pour in the juices from boiling the octopus, that you have kept aside. When cooked nicely, the octopus should be crunchy!
Season the octopus well with freshly ground pepper and put it on a nice plate. It’s ready to be served!
Photography Annette Spaan
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