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Octopus Stew

Adapted from Rick Steins French Odyssey, this Octopus stew is absolutely a crowd pleaser, easy to make, and ultimately stress free! The slow cooking of this dish renders the octopus absolutely mouth meltingly tender and had changed the general view of tough octopus of many a guest!

I recommend making it a day ahead or at least in the morning if you are going to serve that evening!

Serves 10-12 as a starter or 6-8 as a main depending on your portion sizes! Bulk up with new potatoes for a hearty main!

What do you need for the stew?

1kg Tentacles

500g Calamari rings


Olive oil

2 large onions

6 large cloves of garlic peeled and sliced

a large glug of cognac/armagnac/brandy whatever you have to hand

2 large red peppers, washed, deseeded and sliced as thin as you wish

2 tins of organic chopped tomatoes

1 small tin (roughly 2 tbsp of tomato puree

2-3 pared orange peel strips

a couple of sprigs of thyme

2 bay leaves

4 star anise

400 ml white or rosé wine (whatever you have kicking around that needs using up)

1.1 Litres of vegetable stock

1 x 400g tin of cannoli beans, chickpeas, other large white beans (or new potatoes cooked and sliced for a more hearty main)

I lemon

For the Rouille:

1 slice of old white bread soaked in water then squeezed (the slice should be about 25g)

1 egg yolk

Half a tube (approx 3 tbsp) of harissa or a small tin

250 ml olive oil

Chopped flat leaf parsley

Crusty warm baguette

Lets get started!

Heat about 4 tbsp of olive oil add the onions and garlic and soften, don't colour.

Now for my favourite bit! Clear anything flammable out the way, tie back your hair, glug in the cognac (not much more than 100ml) and light - carefully! Shake the pan until the flames die down.

Next throw in the rest of the stew ingredients except for the octopus or seasoning! Stir, bring to the boil, part cover and leave to simmer gentle and thicken.

Rinse and pat dry the octopus, chop up the tentacles into nice chunks, and leave the rings whole. Season well. Heat up a tbsp of olive oil until very hot then in batches brown off the octopus tossing to colour it nicely. Tip all the contents of each batch into the sauce, and repeat. I find there are about 5 batches.

Mix well and turn the flame down really low, partly covered, leave the stew for at least an hour, I personally leave it for 2 minimum on a really low heat, this guarantees max tenderness. Check the tenderness of a tentacle to see if it literally melts in the mouth, and for seasoning! Personally I like it to have a lot of black pepper and some sel de camargue and the lemon juice squeezed in just gives it another edge.

At this point I tend add the beans or potatoes to the sauce and leave to cool. If you can cook this a day in advance and pop in the fridge overnight the better to allow the flavours to really develop.

For the Rouille!

Blitz the bread, egg yolk, Harissa in a processor to make a paste, whilst still running pour in the olive oil and keep running to make a lovely orange/pink creamy emulsified sauce. Scrape down the sides and whizz again to get it all together, chill until needed.

Remove the star anise, bay leaves, thyme and orange peel.

Ladle some sauce into a dish and add half of the rouille recipe and mix well (store the rest in the fridge until needed, it does contain egg so use within a couple of weeks with a fish soup for example). Then add the mix to the stew and gently reheat. If you add the rouille directly to the stew it will curdle.

Reheat gently so it is piping hot!

Ladle into dishes and serve with a LOT of hot crusty baguette to mop up the sauce and sprinkled with the parsley served a fabulous super chilled glass of Marcillac Rosé!

Bon Appetite!

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