A low carb starter of octopus and celery that will impress your dinner guests yet is pure simplicity!
I made a short trip to my fishmonger’s this morning not really knowing what I was going to buy. I just knew I wanted to make a fish starter that I could prepare in advance.
Thank goodness Roberto exists! He must be the best fishmonger in the world. Not only does he only stock fresh local fish and ethically caught fish from further afield (no dodgy imports in his shop!), he is also brilliant at giving you ideas when you’re looking around totally lost.
I pondered for a while, then I told him I had no clue what to get. All I knew was that I needed something that I could prepare in advance and be quite light because my main course was going to be a keto, fat-loaded beast of a meal. Roberto didn’t think for more than 2 seconds. He promptly suggested octopus salad which, here in Italy, is a delicacy and highly regarded as a tasty appetiser that you usually find in all the top fish restaurant menus. Brilliant idea! Thank YOU Roberto!
He then asked me how many people it was for, chose a suitable size mollusc and proceeded to clean it, removing entrails, eyes and beak, ready for me to cook. Brilliant! No need for me to do anything!
a) rinse the little beast
b) put it in a saucepan
c) cover it with cold water
d) boil it for 40 minutes.
Sooooo simple! I love the kind of cooking that does not require lengthy preparations and multiple steps…the lazy cook in me is always ready to pop out!
Here are my tips for the best octopus you’ll ever eat
- Make sure it has 8 tentacles all with double rows of suckers. The tentacles should be quite short and fat. The mantle (looks like a sack) should be fairly round. The eyes should not protrude. If the octopus you are being sold has single-line suckers on long and thin tentacles, an oval mantle and protruding eyes it is a musky octopus and of inferior quality. Although it is still a cephalopod, musky octopus is quite chewy and pretty tasteless. Best avoided.
- You are more likely to find frozen, rather than fresh, octopus. ‘Frozen’ is a good thing. The freezing process seems to tenderise it. No need to bash it with a hammer.
- For perfect cooking times and perfect tenderness, immerse octopus in cold water and bring to the boil with the lid on. As soon as it starts to boil, turn the heat down to a simmer and set the timer.
- Boil octopus in UNsalted water for no longer than 40 mins. Salt will render it chewy. Cooking it for longer will pretty much disintegrate it.
- There is no need to skin an octopus once cooked. However. The mantle is covered by a thick gelatinous skin that is completely edible but does not appeal to me: this is the only bit of skin I remove. It comes away easily by pulling with your fingers.
- Everything is edible apart from beak, eyes and entrails (which should be removed before cooking). Do not discard anything (other than the gelatinous mantle skin, if like me, you’re not keen on the slimy feel of it).
Your fishmonger should be able to clean an octopus for you. It really is very easy. If the fishmonger is the real deal, he/she will know what to do. But in the event that you buy your octopus whole, here is a brief video that shows you how to prepare it in very simple steps. Don’t bother bashing it with a hammer to tenderise it, and don’t bother to dip it in and out of hot water to curl up the tentacles. Follow my instructions and you’ll have a perfectly tender octopus that will just melt in the mouth, curly tentacles included.
The kitchen smelled delicious, by the way. If you’ve never cooked octopus before, you’re in for a surprise. It has a mild fishy smell when raw. Once you begin cooking it, however, the faint fishy smell gives way to a sweetish aroma that is difficult to describe.
While my little friend was simmering away I started preparing the celery and dressing. Celery can be quite stringy and get in your teeth, which I hate. So I run a paring knife along the length of each stalk pulling the strings as I move along. I guess I could use a vegetable peeler. Obviously you can leave out this process if celery strings don’t bother you.
With my lovely lemon dressing ready, it was time to turn off the little beast and let it cool. I must admit, octopus looks a little creepy and scary once cooked. The photo above is to get you prepared so that you don’t worry when you take it out of the pot, thinking you’ve done something wrong or wondering why it’s turned dark red. It’s fine. Within minutes it will be all cut up ready for your salad and you won’t remember the scary looking alien sitting on your chopping board.
And here is my low carb octopus and celery salad, ready and yummy!
What can I say. Octopus and celery are a match made in heaven. A bit like salmon and asparagus. If you don’t care about low carb, add some chunks of boiled potatoes and I promise you will be in heaven.
- 600g octopus
- 4 celery stalks
- 4 tablespoons fresh parsley
- 1 large lemon
- 100ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- fine himalayan pink salt
- rinse octopus under cold running water. put in a large pot. fill with cold water. put lid on and place on high heat.
- when water starts to boil, turn heat down and let it simmer for 40 mins.
- when 40 mins are up, remove the octopus immediately and set aside to cool down.
- remove strings from celery stalks and chop into small pieces (about ½ cm). keep some leaves for decoration.
- juice the lemon and strain into a glass. add 100 ml extra virgin olive oil and blend well. add salt and pepper to taste.
- cut the octopus into small chunks (about 2 cm) and put in a medium bowl. add chopped celery and lemon dressing.
- mix well. adjust salt and pepper and serve with lemon wedges and some celery leaves.
best eaten within 24 hours.
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