Preparing food while at sea can sometimes be a challenge in and of itself, let alone preparing something a little more complicated. Usually you are somewhat limited by the kitchen amenities found in the ships galley. In our experience the most important thing that is missing on board is a good freezer, which is an essential part of preparing any type of sea molluscs. A typical recipe will instruct you to freeze the octopus for a certain amount of time. This will ensure the meat is tender and not chewy. So to overcome this issue we recommend the following recipe. It will work whether you caught the octopus yourself or bought it from a local fisherman.
For 4 people you will need:
- 2 kg of fresh octopus
- 1 dl olive oil
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 onions
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 dl white wine
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 kg of potatoes
Either bought or caught, the octopus needs to be thoroughly cleaned. It is best to do this away from the boat, preferably on the shore, since this will attract fish and seagulls. But if you and your crew-mates don’t mind a little company you can do it on the stern platform of your vessel. You also risk having to dive for your best knife when cleaning the octopus from the stern of your boat.
Depending on the size of the octopus, first we determine its age. If it weighs more than 1,5 kg we will consider it old. If it weighs less we can assume we are talking about a younger specimen. For older ones first remove the outer layer of skin. You can recognise it by its brownish color and a slightly rougher texture, covering the entire octopus from head to tentacles. You do not need to remove any skin from the ending parts of tentacles as this is the youngest part and the skin there is soft and thin. It is also important to not remove the suckers. For a younger octopus you can skip this step as their skin is still soft.
Next we focus on the head, where the internal organs lie. We need to get them out and thoroughly clean the insides of the octopus. This can be done by pulling on the beak, which you can locate on its head in between the tentacles. Usually the intestines will follow. After that you have to turn the head inside out through the opening where the beak used to be and give it a thorough rinse in the sea. Invert it back and remove the eyes located on the head. All the organs you removed can be fed to the seagulls or other sea creatures. By the way, did you know that an octopus has three hearts?
Cooking a fresh octopus can result in it being chewy. In order to prevent this while avoiding deep freezing, you can tenderise the meat using a knife handle or a mallet. You need to gently hammer all of the thicker parts. Be careful not to be too aggressive. If you hit the meat too hard you can damage the tentacles and/or suckers. It is best to lay the tentacles you are tenderising on their side, with the suckers facing away from the bottom surface and the mallet.
Find a pot large enough to fit the entire octopus and then fill it with water. It is easiest to use sea water but be careful not to get any “sea funk” inside the pot. If you decide to use fresh water, don’t forget to add salt. Apply heat and bring it to boil.
Add bay leaves and cook on medium heat for about 1 hour. Turn off the stove and let everything cool down to room temperature. It shouldn’t take more than 30 to 45 minutes. You can use the cool down time to start cooking potatoes. Put them in a pot of fresh water and cook for about 30 minutes. Cooking time will vary depending the size of potatoes used. We recommend you use larger ones.
After the potatoes are done take them out and discard the water. Do the same with the octopus, but save some of the water, you will use it in the next step
In a frying pan heat olive oil, add chopped garlic, onion, octopus cut into pieces about 5 cm long, boiled potatoes and white wine. Fry everything for about 30 minutes in a closed pan. Stir occasionally and if needed add some water you saved from the previous step. Add a spring of rosemary just before the octopus turns crispy and the potatoes are completely soft and soaked in flavours. Add salt and paper and you are done.
Disclaimer: Since most of gas ovens you can find on board are not capable of high temperatures, you should avoid using them for this particular recipe. However, if your boat is equipped with a suitable oven you can alternatively prepare this last step using the oven instead of the stove. Make sure your dish is covered with tin foil.
Place the octopus and potatoes on a plate and garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary and a slice of lemon. Don’t forget about a glass of chilled white wine, which provides for a perfect combination of flavours. BON APPETIT.
We have tried this recipe several times and it always yields great results. If you’d like to enjoy this recipe prepared by a professional chef, make sure to join us on your next sailing adventure.