A blog about cooking with a surprise set of ingredients.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Oscar the Octopus and a Seventies classic

Oscar and his Companions

Henrik:
This is now slightly in the wrong order, as I have not yet writen up on my Bag from Florence that Hazel gave me last Sunday, but I'm sure you can forgive this faux pas. So instead of attacking the keyboard, I ventured out in the Brussels Sunday morning rain to find a suitable challenge. It was quite clear to me that it would have to be something from the sea so I went to the good fishmonger (the one that doesn't smell of fish) and saw something that could even beat certain politicians when it comes to... The fishmonger said his name was Oscar, so here you go Hazel, Oscar is yours!

Hazel:
My first thought on seeing this bag of food, and in particular Oscar, was of relief that he (or she) was at least dead. This is not a given, as those who have read this blog before will know (have a look at "Who Killed Lenny the Lobster", from way back in 2012). My second thought was "what on earth are those root vegetables?" And my third thought was a fond one of pineapple upside down cake, and whether we had any custard powder in the back of a cupboard (we didn't).


I established early in the afternoon that no matter what my eventual intentions by way of recipe were, I would need to cook old Oscar for a good while, so I got him in the pot with water and stock as soon as we were back home from a very muddy walk in the woods. Recipes recommended cooking for anything from 2 to 4 hours, so to keep us going I made some jerusalem artichoke and parsley root crisps, with a purple kale and red onion chutney. Husband and small boys seemed to like the crisps, and wolfed them down. I also made a quick sweet pastry dough for a pineapple tarte tatin as dessert, and got it into the fridge to chill.

Parsley root&artichoke chips with purple kale&red onion chutney


The best octopus I've eaten was in a lovely seaside restaurant in Lerici last summer. The octopus was served whole in a close-fitting pot with a tomato based sauce - a really simple but effective recipe. It put me in the mood for Italian food, so I made a kale risotto for the next course, adding some of the artichoke at the start with the onion in the soffritto. The kale was surprisingly good in a risotto - I steamed it before stirring it in at the end of the cooking period, and it was not nearly as tough and worthy as I'd imagined.

Purple kale & jerusalem artichoke risotto


I then went back down to serve up Oscar. Our friend Flor came up to say hello and showed me the Galician way of serving octopus (Pulpo Gallego) - basically cutting rounds off it and serving it with olive oil, salt, and paprika. I was quite inspired by the simplicity of it, so I hoiked Oscar out of the pot and did my best to replicate the dish. We had some multicoloured tomatoes in the fridge, so I made a salad of those and served Oscar resplendent in pieces on the top. Both sons had a go at eating the octopus, although I think they preferred the version in Lerici for visual effect. And were I to cook octopus whole again, I would ignore the warnings in the books about cooking it that long to ensure it is not tough, and stick to about an hour in the pot. Oscar was certainly tender after the long cooking time, but to our taste was a bit overdone.

Salade Oscar...


The challenge was then to finish the tarte tatin before Sherlock started on BBC 1. The recipe I'd chosen was a seventies classic, and needed a butter and sugar caramel fudge mixture on the bottom to anchor the pineapple, and then the pastry on the top. The sugar high from the resulting pudding was remarkable, but much needed to take us through, with a cup of tea, the psychological games of the programme. And I can confirm the same effect was had the next day for breakfast. So much for my clean eating week....
Tarte demoiselles Nanas

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