JC’s Octopus Salad

We got lucky when Morrisons took over our Safeway and we won a reasonable fish counter; they frequently stock octopus which makes for an interesting change and talking point.

This recipe is based upon an octopus salad in Sophie Grigson’s Fish , modified by the eminent Mr. Stein’s tenderizing/cooking method. I also thought, “why waste the flavour in the cooking juices?” and amalgamated some into the original dressing.


serves: 4
preparation time: 2 months!
cooking time: 2 hrs


  • 750g octopus
  • olive oil
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbs finely chopped fresh parsely
  • Salt & pepper


Having purchased your rarely-seen-in-the-UK octopus, prepare it for cooking. Basically this means turning the body inside out and gutting it, cutting out the eyes and beak, then washing it. I find a mushroom brush (got one?) handy for getting any bits of dirt out of the suckers.

Having cleaned your octopus, pop it into a freezer bag, label it and freeze it for about two months. Many people acuse squid of being rubbery; I strongly disagree but octopus can be. Freezing is said to help tenderize it and I’m not about to argue with Mr. Stein.

When you have a suitable audience and the day arrives to use your octopus, thaw it out. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/gas 2. Oil a shallow casserole that has a tight-fitting lid and pop in the octopus. Drizzle more olive oil over the top of the octopus. Don’t season it; cover it with the lid and pop it into the warm oven to cook for 2 hours.

Remove the casserole from the oven, take off the lid and let the octopus cool. Magically, quite a bit of cooking liquid will have been produced.

Octopi have a purple-ish skin, much of which will have split, contracted and clumped during cooking. Remove the octopus to a chopping board and, without being too finicky (it’s perfectly edible), rub off the worst of the skin. Many of the suckers will come away with the skin. Chop the now largely white octopus into chunks about 2½cms/1in long.

Make a dressing based on the octopus cooking liquor. The liquid will be a mixture of octopus juice and the olive oil you added. Whisk it into an emulsion and grab about 4 tablespoons of it. Whisk in further olive oil to get to the consistency of a vinaigrette dressing. Whisk in enough lemon juice to give it a pleasant, lemony tang. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, being careful with salt because the juices are already quite salty.

Toss the octopus in the dressing then stir in the chopped parsely. Serve with crusty bread and butter.

Get a pdf version of this recipe

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