Carpaccio Style Octopus

Carpaccio Style Octopus

Serves: to serve 4

Prep Time: 40 Minutes + waiting

Cook Time: 1 Hour 15 Minutes

Ready In: 1 hr 55 mins
+ waiting

2½ lb - octopus

1 - carrot

2 stalks - celery

1 - onion

6-10 - whole black peppercorns

6 - juniper berries

2 tablespoons - red wine vinegar

4 - bay leaves

1 tablespoon - coarse sea salt

5 tablespoons - extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons - fresh lemon juice

  - salt and pepper

1 handful - parsley

1 clove - garlic

  1. The first job is to prepare the octopus for cooking. Normally the octopus is sold already cleaned out (the head is empty) so it just remains to remove the eyes and the beak. By making two angled cuts either side of each eye to remove a wedge shape, these are quickly disposed of and this will also expose the beak which can be removed with a small, pointed knife. (The beak is also accessible from underside the octopus, right in the middle, where the tentacles meet.)
  2. Wash the octopus well in cold water. Peel the onion and cut in half. Peel and roughly chop the carrot and break the celery in bits. Half-fill a large pan with water then add the onion, carrot, celery, peppercorns, juniper berries, red wine vinegar, bay leaves and coarse sea salt. Bring the water to simmering point (not boiling).
  3. You can now place the octopus into the pan. However, to get the tentacles into a more aesthetically pleasing shape, hold the octopus by the head and slowly submerge the lower half of the tentacles into the water for just a couple of seconds, then lift the octopus out of the water. Dip them again, and do this seven or eight times. You'll see the bottom part of the tentacles begin to curl. Finally, lower the whole octopus into the water. Cover the pan and allow to simmer (not boil) for about ½ hour per 1lb (450g) of octopus. So, for a 2½lb (1.2kg) octopus, a bit over one hour will be fine.
  4. When the octopus is cooked, drain it, allow it to cool and then you can cut it. First, remove the head and cut it in half, then cut the octopus into quarters (two tentacles per quarter).
  5. Carpaccio Style OctopusNow comes the interesting bit because we want to create a compressed 'roll' of octopus from these pieces. The secret is to get hold of a 1½ pint (1 litre) plastic drinks bottle. Cut off the head of the bottle (from the point where the bottle starts to taper) so you are left with a receptacle with straight sides. Make several holes in the base with the points of a pair of scissors. Place the bottle into a bowl (to catch the remaining water from the octopus) and then place the octopus pieces into the plastic bottle. Try to keep the tentacles curled in the bottle so they make a nice cross section when they are cut.
  6. When all of the octopus is in the bottle, press it down very firmly using a pestle or anything that is wide enough not to pierce the flesh (a glass that is just slightly smaller than the bottle works well. You can press it down using a rolling pin or similar wooden implement).
  7. Carpaccio Style OctopusAfter you have compacted the octopus and the liquid has drained out, you need to close the bottle. To do this, cut down the sides of the bottle vertically until you get to the level of the octopus flesh. Do this several times, then fold the upright plastic tabs into the centre. Wrap the whole thing well with several layers of cling film then store it in the fridge for at least 6 hours with a weight on top to keep everything compact.
  8. Take the bottle out of the fridge, unwrap the cling film and straighten the tabs. Turn the bottle upside down and the octopus will simply slide out. Slice the octopus roll either with a very sharp knife or an electric knife, then lay it out on a large serving plate.
  9. Peel and very finely chop the garlic and finely chop the parsley. Mix these together and sprinkle over the octopus. Mix the olive oil and lemon juice well and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle this over the octopus. Serve straight away.