11 January 2009
We're currently seeing one of the longest cold stretches here since I can remember. Sure, in this part of Germany it's no great deal to have the occasional night well below minus ten degrees celsius. But since Christmas, it's been freezing, with 'coldest night on record' records coming in every other day.
It's great actually, it's white outside and the air is clean and crisp and lovely.
I really ought to be reveling in cold weather food, like cheese fondue and such. But I think I've had more than enough of that already before christmas, when it was merely rainy. Who could have known that for a change, we would get a proper winter this year?
As much as I enjoy our daily walks in the sunlit, icy forest that begins just at the end of our road, I already feel that longing for a different kind of food.
Oddly enough, it's the summer food I miss, not necessarily summer itself. Not yet, probably.
So I when we were at our local wholesale market, stocking up on the bare necessities of life - like toilet paper, olive oil and crayfish - I noticed them having fresh octopus. Immediately, my holidays in Croatia were back full force. My father is an avid sailor, and I have spent quite some weeks by now sailing among the Cornati Islands.
It is a lovely region, with crystal clear water, tiny cities dating back to roman times with pale slabs of stone paving the streets, worn smooth by countless feets so they shine in the mediterranean sun.
And of course, the lovely food of the adriatic. Grilled meat, great vegetables, fresh fish everwhere. And of course one of my all-time favorites - octopus salad.
Admittedly, nothing here can match an octopus fresh from the sea and real sun-ripened tomatoes you have bought from some black-clad granny on a farmers market down there.
But still, the longing struck me right there in front of half a ton of various fishes on crushed ice, and I knew I just had to try. After all, I was on holiday, so what was there to lose but some time?
So I bought some of these slightly cthulhoid fellows and tried to make that salad, and it turned out just fine. It's not really whipped up in an instant (meaning it takes more than 5 minutes of my attention), but it is lovely, and close enough to the real thing that you can almost feel the sun.
1,2 - 1,5 kg octopus
200ml plain white vinegar
4 bay leaves
1 tablespoon chilies
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
vinegar and / or lemon juice
salt & pepper, a dash of honey
In a large pot, boil enough water so your octopus will have enough room. Add the vinegar, the salt, onion, bay leaves and chilies.
Clean the octopus under running water, check that the intrails have been taken out. Turn the 'head' sack back to normal it necessary, so that the colored skin is on the outside.
Boil the octopus until the meat is tender but not soft, probably about 40 minutes.
Cooking time varies greatly with size, age and type of octopus you get, large specimen can need up to 1 1/2 hours. It's ready when a fork inserted gets a proper 'meaty' but not 'rubbery' resistance.
Drop the octopus in cold water for a moment.
Clean them of their dark skin, make sure to remove eyes and beaker.
Actually you'll see immediately which parts you'll want to eat - you keep the ones that are pale and firm and get rid of everything slimy.
Chop them into bite-sized pieces and marinade in some salt, some vinegar or lemon juice and a generous amount of olive oil.
This mix keeps well a day or two in the fridge and can be perfectly prepared for a party.
Right before serving, chop up the onion and the tomatoes, and add them to the fish. Season with salt, pepper, parsley and eventually some more vinegar or lemon juice.
Serve with crisp bread and maybe some white wine, and enjoy! Maybe it's not quite as good as in Starigrad on Hvar, but really damn close.