I've adapted this recipe from Rick Steins French Odyssey, a classic French cookbook that I refer to regularly for some inspiration!
This recipe will serve 8 as a starter, and at the end of the recipe you can see how to bulk it up to make it a main for 4-6! Depending on your portion sizes!
For the Octopus stew you'll need:
1.5kg of a mix of tentacles (1kg) and calamari (500g) - roughly - I prefer more tentacles to rings!
2 onions sliced
8 garlic cloves halved and sliced
A good glug (around 100ml) of armagnac/brandy/cognac (whatever you have available)
2 large red peppers deseeded and sliced reasonably finely
2 x 500g tinned chopped tomatoes - ideally organic/good quality (or 4 large tomatoes, skinned and chopped up)
1 small tin or 1/2 tube of tomato puree
a few pared strips of orange peel
a few thyme sprigs
2-3 bay leaves
4 star anise
1 bottle of white wine
1 litre of vegetable stock
1/2 this rouille recipe:
1 slice of old white bread (approx 25g) soaked in water and squeezed out
3 cloves of garlic peeled
1 egg yolk
half a tube of bought harissa (roughly 3 tablespoons or a small tin)
250ml olive oil
1 tin cannoli beans, chickpeas, or any white beans
or for a more wholesome main replace the beans with some cooked new potatoes sliced.
some chopped flat leaf parsley
Loads of warm crusty white baguette and some good hearty wine!
Lets get cracking!!
First we need to do the sauce. Put about 5 tablespoons of olive oil in a large deep pan and heat, add the onions until soft then add the garlic and soften.
Now my favourite bit...add the cognac, then ensure there is nothing flammable in reach of the pan, your hair is tied will back etc. then light the cognac, continually shake the pan until the flames die down.
Throw in the rest of the stew ingredients except the tentacles and octopus, bring up to the boil then part cover and leave to simmer and thicken.
In the meantime, rinse off, drain and pat dry the tentacles and calamari and chop the tentacles into decent size chunks and season well. Heat a glug of olive oil in a very hot large (ideally cast iron) pan and toss regularly until they have darkened in colour and a bit golden, this shouldn't take long but do it in batches, and tip the contents of each batch into the sauce.
Leave at a gentle simmer for a least and hour, I personally have a really low flame and leave for at least 2 hours then the octopus is super tender, at this point add the beans or cooked potatoes (if you don't cool cool for another 15 mins)! I also prefer to cool and leave in the fridge overnight to serve the next day for the flavours to really enhance.
Pick out the herbs, star anise and orange peel.
For the Rouille:
In your food processor put the bread, garlic, egg yolk and harissa and blitz to a paste, with the machine still turning, pour in the olive oil and leave it going until it emulsifies and forms a fabulous creamy orange rouille.
Ladle some of the sauce into a bowl and mix in half the rouille until well mixed then add this back into the stew (store the rest in the fridge for another time). If you don't do this the sauce will split.
Reheat the stew, then ladle into bowls topped with the parsley and served with hot crusty bread and a well chilled glass of Marcillac Rosé.