11 January 2009

slightly cthulhoid fellows

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.

(serves four)

1,2 - 1,5 kg octopus
200ml plain white vinegar
1 onion
4 bay leaves
1 tablespoon chilies
2 tablespoons salt

500g tomatoes
1 onion
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
olive oil
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.



I love you blog, it's really beautiful, the pictures are outstanding!

Shayne said...

when I see tentacles on a blog I have to stop...I love tentacles and this salad looks great. I have been to Serbia several times and spent some time on the coast in Montenegro so but did not see this salad, I guess you have to be on the sea in Croatia. If I ever see it I will have to try it for sure.

Reuben Morningchilde said...

@Mononoke - Thanks so much, I am really glad someone likes the pictures besides me.^^

@Shayne - Yeah, same here too. I usually fly to Split, or rather Trogir in Croatia, and we sail south from there on. This salad is basically the first item on every menu in the region there, and honestly I have never been disappointed so far. It's really worth a try.

Abby said...

Gorgeous post and photos. I've never had octopus (only seen it at aquariums! Ha.) But it's beautiful on the plate, most definitely.

bensbaby116 said...

I just found your blog today through the Foodie Blogroll. Can't say that I've ever had octopus or that I would have any idea how to make it, but yours looks impressive!

Reuben Morningchilde said...

@Abby - Thanks! The image was really more of a lucky accident. We were already eating, and I looked down on my plate, fork in hand, and suddenly thought get that camarea NOW. Really happy how it turned out.

@bensbaby - Well, I hope by now you've got at least ONE idea on how to prepare octopus. Else I would really, really have to redo the recipe section of the post... Thanks for commening!