Helpful preparation tips to make sure you achieve a delicious, mouthwatering result
By Christina Tzialla

Cooking octopus in a rich wine sauce with herbs and spices calls for special caution if the result isn’t going to be too salty. The octopus should be cleaned and washed properly and then placed in a saucepan, either whole or cut in pieces, covered and cooked over a low heat until it releases its juices and starts to soften.

Its own juice is tasty and salty enough, so it doen’t really need any other liquid. You may, however, add a little wine, with some herbs or spices to taste. If the juice looks like it might evaporate before the octopus has softened, add a cup of water or preferably wine. For a more aromatic result, use the zest and juice of citrus fruits.

Remember that octopus shrinks during cooking, so keep that in mind when estimating the number of servings you will get from it.

Prick the octopus with a fork to see if it is soft – the prongs should slide easily into the flesh. An average-sized octopus (1-1.2 kilos) takes about 40 minutes to cook. A bigger one might need over an hour. The safest way to tell if it is done is to taste it.

If you want to add olive oil, do so toward the end so it is not overcooked; the result will be lighter and tastier. Octopus can be served on its own as a snack or as a meal with rice, vegetables, potatoes or pasta. Vinegar or tomato can also be added.

Remember that it has to be cooked slowly so the juices don’t evaporate before the meal is ready. If you need to thicken the sauce, raise the heat right at the end, removing the octopus and other contents if necessary, leaving only the liquid.

If you are using vegetables that need to be sauteed, start with the octopus as described above, then remove it once it has released its juice, put it aside and pour the juice into a bowl. Add the olive oil to the pan and saute the vegetables. Then return the octopus to the pan, stir and add a little wine, then the octopus juice. Add a little more liquid if necessary to cook all the ingredients.

As the octopus is already quite salty, no extra salt is needed during cooking. Taste halfway through and add only if necessary, for example if you have added a lot of extra liquid.

Herbs & spices

Bay leaves, pepper, allspice, oregano, thyme and rosemary all go well with octopus. Parsley, fresh thyme and fresh oregano are also excellent – add them at the end of cooking time, but don’t go overboard, particularly if you aren’t sure.

Some more to try include dried coriander, star anise, and orange juice and zest (some even use whole slices of orange). A classic recipe calls for cloves with bay leaves, cinnamon stick, allspice and paprika, perhaps with a little Mavrodaphne wine. For an even “hotter” version, try finely chopped chili.


Octopus with olives

Ingredients (serves 8)

1.2 kg cleaned octopus
100 ml olive oil
250 gr finely chopped onions
300 ml dry red wine
300 ml homemade tomato sauce*
250 gr Halkidiki olives, stoned and sliced in rounds
2 tbsp fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
Salt and pepper

Wash the octopus well, cut off the tentacles and discard the hood.

Heat the olive oil and saute the onions until slightly softened. Add the tentacles and saute, stirring continuously. Lower the heat and add the wine; leave to cook for 10 minutes and add the tomato sauce and olives. Simmer until the octopus is soft, adding a little water at the end if the octopus doesn’t release much juice. Add the basil and season. Remove from the stove.
* Saute a chopped garlic clove in a tablespoon of oil, add 400 gr canned chopped tomatoes, fresh or dried herbs as desired, salt and pepper and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring and mashing the tomatoes with a wooden spoon.
Lefteris Lazarou

Octopus with wild greens

Ingredients (serves 6)

1.2 kg octopus (one large or 2-3 smaller ones)
1 kg wild aromatic greens, washed and chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup of dry white or red wine
1 onion, finely chopped
2/3 cup olive oil
A little salt and plenty of black pepper

Clean the octopus and, using scissors, remove the hard part (the mouth), found where the tentacles join. Turn the hood inside out and discard the stomach (which could be full of sand), leaving the ink sac if desired. Cut the octopus into pieces, according to the desired serving size.

Wash well and place in a saucepan over a high heat, leaving uncovered until the juice released has evaporated. Then add the oil and onion and saute briefly. While it starts to spit, add the wine and pepper. When the wine has evaporated, add about a cup of boiled water and leave to cook until the octopus is half done (when a fork slides in easily). Add the chopped greens and cover the pan until they settle, stirring occasionally.
The greens will release their own liquid, which will be enough, but keep an eye on it just in case a little more boiled water is needed. Add a little salt to season the greens. There should be no surplus liquid left at the end of cooking time.

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