Of all the types of seafood available to us, few are more varied in popularity than octopus. It is highly popular in southern Europe and the Far East, but it’s extremely unlikely to appear on the menu at your local chippy anytime soon.
More is the pity, because many will miss out on the great taste and wide variety of meals available that place this tasty mollusc at its centre.
It is, of course, true to say that octopuses are very interesting creatures in their own right. Said to be the most intelligent of the invertebrates - though far less brainy than any number of creatures we habitually eat - octopuses also have three hearts, can change colour in an instant and can regenerate lost limbs, ensuring there are always eight tentacles for you to munch on.
There are no less than 250 species, so your fresh octopus delivery will be one of the edible kinds, avoiding the few poisonous species like the blue-ringed octopus.
Once you have your octopus to hand, the choice of dishes is huge, with many popular options.
Food and Wine Magazine has suggested a range of options that it said may seem “daunting”, but are actually highly manageable and delicious.
This includes braised octopus dishes such as combining it with chorizo and potatoes. A suggestion is to dip the tentacles in hot water before starting to ensure they keep their firmness. Another is to pan sear it before braining in white wine and serving with an Italian salad.
Grilled octopus possibilities include the trick of braising it in sherry and then removing the skin before grilling it and serving it up with chilli sauce.
Octopus is generally characterised by being very chewy, but if it is cooked for a very long time it can become very tender and be added to pastry turnovers.
These kind of options so the variety of ways in which octopus can be cooked, as well as how it can be eaten plain, or soaked in various kinds of wine or other flavoured juices. The key is it must be well cooked, but this can be done in various ways and produce different textures.
In addition to the different ways octopus can be cooked, there is an almost infinite variety of ways it can be served. Cold with a salad is one option, or it could be added to a stew or soup, covered in a tasty sauce or dished up with all manner of different vegetables. It could be served up on its own or as part of a seafood platter. It is this variety that makes octopus so versatile.
As for the health benefits, octopus is high in Omega-3 acids, just like oily fish, which is good for reducing the risk of strokes or heart attacks. It is also low in fat and has plenty of vitamins, iron and carbs.
If all this sounds like the kind of benefits that come from a Mediterranean diet, that’s because it is. Octopus is seen as a delicacy and, once you have tried a few dishes, you will probably find it is one of your favourites too.