It may still be winter in Sydney, but with a few warm sunny days – it is beginning to feel like spring is just around the corner. When the days start getting longer and warmer, I have an overwhelming urge to eat outside, accompanied by the fragrance of jasmine starting to bloom on the neighbour’s fence. Seafood just has to be on the menu also, as a little reminder that soon enough the days will be hot and spent at the beach.
This dish is Greek lent / fasting classic and it is also a family favourite all year round, a kind of Greek ‘comfort food’. When cooking the octopus at step one, don’t be tempted to add any extra liquid to the pot. The octopus will release all its lovely salty juices, becoming tender and mouth-watering. These juices will, in turn, make the most delicious sauce for the short pasta, along with fresh tomatoes and a little hint of chilli. Indeed, the octopus itself is not really the star of this dish – it is just there to flavour of the sauce for the pasta, so much so that this dish is probably best described as pasta in an octopus sauce, rather than ‘braised octopus’. In terms of the pasta itself – don’t go throwing any spaghetti in here. It is traditional to use a short pasta called ‘koftaki’ or ‘kofto miso’ in Greek – try the Helios, Melissa or Misko range, which you can buy from most continental grocers worldwide.
Braised octopus with short pasta (χταπόδι μακαρονάδα)
- 1 large octopus (about 1.5 kilos), cleaned
- ½ cup extra-virgin Greek olive oil
- 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
- 1 medium brown onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 cups peeled, seeded, chopped fresh Roma tomatoes
- 1 cup dry red wine (such as a Greek xinomavro)
- 500 g short pasta, such as kofto miso or koftaki.
- Pinch of Aleppo pepper or dried chilli flakes
- 150-200 ml boiling water
- Place some of the olive oil in a wide, heavy pot over medium heat, add the onions and sauté until transparent but not browned, then add the octopus whole. Cover and cook over very low heat, until the octopus exudes its juices and turns deep pink, and the onion is very tender, about 15-20 minutes. Remove the octopus and cut into pieces.
- Add the garlic to the pot and stir over medium heat. Then put the octopus pieces back in the pot, together with the tomatoes. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the wine. Reduce heat and simmer for another 25 minutes over medium – low heat, or until the sauce is thick.
- Add the dried pasta to the same pot, ontop of the sauce. Start by adding around 150mls of boiling water to the pot and stir well, allowing the pasta to cook. You need to stir every couple of minutes to ensure the pasta does not stick to the bottom of the pot. You may add to need more boiling water as you go, check the pasta by tasting it. Then serve immediately – the rest of your bottle of xinomavro will match nicely and you can also serve some feta and olives on the side.
*For more delicious Greek recipes mulberrypomegranate.blogspot.com.au
*Images by Katrina Kallos