Octopus Stew

This week we have started Lent and since I have received some email asking for no-meat recipes for you to prepare during these 40 days, this week I will be giving you the recipe for Octopus Stew. Even though we might consider this as a summer dish, stew can easily be served warm as a mid-week supper.

Octopus are found fresh all the year round in our fishmongers and most supermarkets also stock pre-packed frozen ones. If you’ve never cooked octopus, don’t be discouraged. It’s very easy to handle and not difficult to clean, should it be the case. Most fishmongers are happy to clean them once you have chosen the ones you will be purchasing and the frozen ones come ready cleaned.

Should you be buying fresh octopus, always freeze it for a couple of days before using. This method, be it an old tradition, will help your octopus remain nice and soft during the cooking process and not go all chewy.
So, here is what you need to make the stew for about 2 – 4 persons depending on your portions !

1 large onion
3 cloves garlic
1 Kg Octopus cleaned and chopped
1 small Tin Kunserva (tomato Paste)
1 pinch of sugar
2 x 400g tins chopped Tomatoes
1 fish cube
bay leaves
1 tablespoon capers
2 tablespoons black pitted olives – It is best to buy the big black olives (bone-in) and cut around the bone. These olives have more flavour than the pitted ones.
Chilles – Fresh, dried or ½ tsp of harissa, Optional

Start off by peeling and chopping the garlic and onions. Place them in a pan with a little oil and heat slowly until the onions start to soften. Next add the tomato paste and stir well until all the onion is nice and red, allow it to cook for a couple of seconds, then sprinkle a pinch of sugar over it.

Next add the tomato pieces and octopus together. Stir well, adding the fish cube and about 2 cups of boiling water. Make sure not to pour any water over the octopus at this stage, since this will result in boiling your tentacles.

Now add the olives, capers and bay leaves and chillies (if using). Before adding the bay leaves, wash them properly and tear at the sides for a stronger taste. Bay leaves can be found in little jars just like other dried herbs and spices.

Now, lower the heat and allow the stew to simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. The longer you allow the stew to simmer, the better your end result will be. Once the sauce is reduced to a thick consistency, your stew is ready.

You can also use this recipe as a sauce and serve the stew with some spaghetti. If you wish you can also substitute the octopus for calamari.

Spinach Soup

Temperatures will drop quite low this weekend and what better way to warm up than with some hearty soups!

Spinach soup is very easy to prepare and now that fresh spinach is in season, you can use that. If you prepare this out of season, you can opt for frozen spinach instead.

I must admit, before I start, that with regards to presentation, this soup leaves much to be desired. The colour is a dark green, but the taste is delicious. Here is what you need to make enough soup for 4 persons.

1 large onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 chicken cube – for those of you who suffer from high blood pressure, you can opt for the reduced salt variety
700 ml of boiling water
500 g cleaned spinach
Pinch of oregano
1 tablespoon plain yogurt.

Start off by placing the onion and garlic in a warm pot. Stir continuously to avoid burning. Once the onions start to soften add the chicken cube and a little of the water, just enough to cover the onions. Keep on cooking until the onions are cooked through.

Now add the spinach and the rest of the water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about half-an-hour. Once the spinach is cooked take the pot off the stove and give it a good whiz with your hand blender or any other liquidiser.

Once you are ready to serve, place 2 ladles of soup in a bowl and to improve on your plate presentation, place a tablespoon of plain yogurt in the middle of your soup. Now with a tooth pick drag strands of the yogurt into the soup and some of the soup back into the yogurt. This will have a spider web effect.

Fresh Orange Sorbet

Oranges are quite plentiful at the moment so this is a good way to use up your stocks! Local oranges will be great for this recipe as most of them are not too sweet.

You can serve this sorbet as a dessert or mid-way through your meal to freshen the palate. You can also add it to your choice of desserts as this sorbet will keep in your freezer for over 1 week!

There are no raw egg whites in this recipe, so this is suitable for both children as well as pregnant women.
750ml of water
300g sugar
300ml of fresh orange juice

You will need to start by placing 750ml of water in a pot with 400g of sugar. Place the pot over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves. In the meantime, wash your oranges and using a zester, remove some of the peel, set aside. Next squeeze the oranges; you will need 300ml of juice which is roughly 8 to 10 oranges.

Once the sugar has dissolved, add the orange juice and the zest and stir. At this point you can churn the sorbet in an ice-cream machine or else you can place it in a shallow container and place it in the freezer.

Churning should take you around 30 minutes. If you are freezing the sorbet, set your timer for 3 hours. Once your timer rings, whiz the sorbet in an electric blender then place it in the same container and re-freeze.

Repeat this process for another 3 times until the sorbet is soft and flaky on the last check.