I had a bash, a while back, at cooking an octopus sous vide. The reason for this was not to keep my hand in with the Food Tosserati, but to satisfy my curiosity; I reasoned that the cooking method would tenderise the rubbery beast and intensify flavours.
Yeah, it didn’t go well. My experience of cooking octopus has been limited and I didn’t know that the best way to start it off was to let it simmer in its own juices. Lovely phrase, that. Lots of other people knew though. Oh yes. Loaaaaaads of other people. I basically ended up feeling like a complete tool, particularly when it came to the curious case of the red liquid in the bag. It was REALLY RED though.
Anyway. After 4 months I decided I was ready to have another bash so this time I lopped off its head and slung the tentacles into the pot to let them simmer in you know what. Then I slung the head in too because this one didn’t have eyes and so seemed a lot more attractive in terms of something I might actually want to put in my mouth. I then vac packed it with what I had lying around which happened to be the ingredients for a jerk marinade, because I was making – you’ve guessed it – some jerk marinade. So in went a scotch bonnet, some lime juice, spring onion, garlic and a slice of ginger. Oh and a little of the octopus *searches for a word other than juices* cooking liquid, which was still extremely pink, by the way. Apparently that is normal. What makes it pink, though? SCIENCE PLEASE.
The octopus was to cook for five hours. We had to set an alarm to wake us up. Well, my boyfriend had to set an alarm to wake himself up, except he didn’t, which is why I stumbled into the kitchen blurry eyed at 3am, turned his alarm off, had a nonsensical conversation with him because he was still half asleep, in which he tried to convince me he had set the alarm ‘for something else’ and then went back to bed. Then I got up again because I had forgotten the octopus and so I made him get up and take the octopus out. This is an example of the main problem with sous vide cooking.
Once chilled overnight, the octopus looked…well it looked like a curled up dragon pooing a scotch bonnet chilli to me but I think it’s open to interpretation. It didn’t look too appetising, basically. Once chopped up however it looked lovely, not to mention more comfortingly familiar, and the texture and flavour were spot on. Chilled octopus has a form texture which is a million miles nicer than the soft, slightly mushy texture it has when warm, in my opinion.
Which is why I’m so annoyed that we decided to re-heat it. I have no idea why that seemed like a good idea at the time. A dressing of lime juice, coriander, spring onions and a little chilli was zippy and weather-perfect. The dish was finally nailed and I ballsed it up at the last minute.
Caribbean style octopus salad is very good, anyway, so there we have it. You could of course cook it without a sous vide machine; this isn’t the sous vide recipe to convince sceptics, that’s for sure. Eggs are still the most fun, and I’ve had success with meat but I now want to try fish, which seems to completely polarise opinions. To be honest I’m really just glad I’m still using the thing.
Sous Vide Octopus Salad
1 octopus (I failed to note the weight but it certainly wasn’t small, or native. Mine was from Galicia. I have since learnt that the natives are much cheaper. Another octopus lesson learned the hard way.
2 thick slices fresh ginger
2 spring onions
1 scotch bonnet chilli, pierced but left whole
Juice of 1 lime
A little of the octopus juices
My octopus arrived ready to cook so I just rinsed it, then separated head and tentacles, put in a pot on a low heat and simmered, lid on, for an hour. It will release liquid and gently cook in it. Allow to cool. Set the sous vide to 77 degrees C. Vac pack with the ingredients above and cook for five hours.
Allow to cool and chop into inch long pieces. Mix with the dressing (below). Serve cold.
For the dressing
Small handful coriander leaves, chopped
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 small red chilli or a pinch of chilli flakes or even some finely chopped scotch bonnet if you’re into that kind of thing
1 small piece ginger (about the size of a large garlic clove)
1-2 garlic cloves
Juice of 1 lime
Splash of olive oil
Crush the garlic and then use a garlic crusher to press a piece of ginger until the juice comes out. Discard the fibrous bit. Add the other ingredients and mix well. Really well. Emulsify. Adjust to taste.