Choosing your octopus is important! Make sure it bright and shiny. in the Spanish coastal regions you would usually buy it still alive! But fresh fresh fresh! Old sea food is just not worth it. A nice big one is best. The octopus is more filling than you think! But you want a good size portion, so for four people 3-4 kg should be about right, as it will shrink in the cooking process. Once you have chosen your octopus it's time to prepare it for cooking.
My mother in-law who is an expert in all Spanish home cooking, (most of these recipes come from he. She won't write them down “in case the neighbours get hold of her "tricks". So I’ve had to cook with her to learn what to do).
She say’s to get the best results freeze him for a day or two. Thaw, before you start to cook him.This helps the octopus tenderise.
Ready for the pot!
Once he has thawed out he's ready for the pot, get the biggest saucepan you have, If you have a copper pot its best but if not place a few copper coins in the water, this will give you a really authentic taste that only copper gives to the dish. (sounds funny but believe me makes a difference).
Fill the pan with water and bring to the boil. You can add a few coarsely chopped onions, carrot and some bay leaf into the water. Then take the octopus by the head and plunge the tentacles in the water. Count to five slowly and take him out, put on the side and wait for the water to come back to the boil. Put him back in repeat this twice more (three times in total) this curls the tentacles and helps to make him even more tender.
Put the octopus back into the water bring to the boil and simmer for about an 1 hour-1 hour 1/2 and until tender. Take out and leave on the side.
Now add the potato to the water and cook them until tender. While they are cooking cut the head off your octopus (mother in-law keeps this bit for herself she loves it but it's not to everyone taste). Take the tentacles and cut into slices. Pop them on a wooden plate with the potato (also sliced). In spanish home cooking a real authentic presentation would be to drizzle with good olive oil and sprinkle with a good pinch of sea salt and paprika. If you are serving as a tapas pop some cocktail sticks in to the tasty morsels so they can easily be picked up and eaten by your guests.
It sounds like a lot of work, but as with most spanish home cooking it isn't. You have plenty of time to prepare you other dishes while your beautiful pulpo is cooking.
Believe me it's a truly delicious dish!!
For more spanish home cooking see our other pages.