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.

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