Classic mediterranean flavours include oregano, lemon, garlic and olive oil. I have combined all of these flavours in Mediterranean Inspired Baby Octopus.
Octopus has gained a reputation as being tough and chewy. Octopus is best cooked very slowly for a long time or very quickly over a high heat, anything else in-between will result in a tough and chewy dish. Octopus shrinks a lot once cooked, so bulk up your quantity of raw seafood to allow for the shrinkage factor. Most octopus purchased from a shop comes cleaned and ready to go, check with your fish monger if unsure. You could chop your baby octopus into pieces before adding to the marinade or leave them whole.
A trick I learnt about a while ago is to add some bicarb soda to the marinade to help tenderise the octopus. I have also heard of kiwi fruit or pawpaw being used to tenderise, but I haven’t experimented with these options so can’t provide insights on how well they work.
I recommend using normal olive oil in this dish, this type of oil is better for cooking with. Save your good quality extra virgin olive oil for dressings, drizzling or other uses not subjected to high temperatures.
You could cook these baby octopus on a barbecue, because it has been wet and miserable in Sydney, I have cooked mine in a very hot fry pan. Because of their unusual shape, you will need to turn them multiple times so they cook through. They could be served as part of a mezze platter or with a greek salad.
Mediterranean Inspired Baby Octopus
- 1 kg baby octopus
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon rosemary
- 1 tablespoon thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
- 3 – 4 cloves of garlic
- 2 lemons
- 1 tablespoon bicarb soda
- Finely chop the garlic, rosemary and oregano, pick the thyme leaves and add to a bowl.
- Zest the lemons, add zest to the bowl with herbs.
- Add the chilli, bicarb soda and olive oil to the bowl. Stir to combine.
- Wash the baby octopus and pat try with paper towel.
- Add the baby octopus to the bowl and stir to coat in the marinade.
- Cover the bowl of octopus and put in the fridge to marinade. Leave for an hour or more, preferably overnight.
- Heat the barbecue or fry pan to a high heat.
- Cook the octopus in a single layer, in batches if required. Turn once the octopus is opaque and getting a little charred or brown.
- Transfer to a serving plate, accompany with wedges of the zested lemon. Sprinkle with salt. Your baby octopus is ready to serve. Enjoy.
What is your favourite Asian inspired recipe? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
Australians love a barbie, and barbecues seem to have evolved a lot over the years. My first memory of a barbecue is one made of bricks by my dad in the backyard with a hot plate suspended above the wood-fueled coals. In the 80s, our family progressed to the Webber kettle, fueled by heat beads. Nowadays, most people have gas barbecues, but there are still some devotees that think flames or coals are best for an authentic smokey flavour.
There is something communal about catching a whiff of the smells of other people’s dinner cooking away outdoors. I lived in London for a several years, and the Brits are jealous of the Australian good weather and outdoor lifestyle, so any glimpse of a sunny day in would trigger off a barbecue breeding season. Barbecues multiplied at an amazing rate in the unit complex I lived in. The discarded barbecues were then stored in an area of the car park, which during the winter months resembled a barbecue graveyard.
If you are looking for something a bit different to cook on the barbecue from your standard sausages and steaks, you could give these sumac spiced prawns a try. Sumac is a middle eastern spice that comes from the berries of the Rhus tree. I tracked down my latest batch of sumac at the David Jones food hall, only to discover later that my local green grocer also stocks it. Sumac gives a citrus or sour flavour to dishes, and its pretty reddish purple colour adds extra visual appeal.
The prawns are delicious served with some tzatziki dip or my Watercress and Pomegranate Tabouli from an earlier post to continue with the middle eastern inspired theme.
I used rice bran oil in this recipe, which is perfect for barbecuing because of its ability to withstand high temperatures and its neutral taste.
If you don’t like the taste of coriander, don’t be put off by the use of ground coriander seeds. Herbie’s spices describes ground coriander as an amalgamating spice, meaning it helps tie all the other flavours together, and it does have a different taste to fresh coriander.
A tip with chillies is that they freeze well. If you have bought a pack from your green grocer or grow your own, it helps prolong the life of the chillies.
Sumac Spiced Prawns
* This recipe was inspired by one that appeared in the November 2003 edition of Australian Gourmet Traveller. I have modified and adapted it over the years to come up with the below reincarnation.
- 1 tablespoon sumac
- 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 or 2 birds eye chillies finely chopped, depending how hot you like things
- 2 tablespoons of lemon thyme or thyme leaves
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds, ground
- 500g of raw peeled prawns
- 2 tablespoons of oil (I used rice bran oil)
- Salt & lemon wedges to serve
- Add sumac, garlic, chilli, paprika, lemon zest, thyme, cinnamon and coriander seeds to a bowl. Stir to combine.
- Add your prawns and stir to coat the prawns in the spice mixture.
- Add the oil and stir again to coat the prawns.
- Soak your wooden skewers in water to prevent them burning while cooking.
- Leave to marinate (overnight is great, if you don’t have the time, a half an hour or more is great).
- Heat your barbecue or hot plate.
- Thread the prawns onto the soaked wooden skewers.
- Cook your prawns on the barbecue or hot plate, turning when the prawns start to appear opaque and slightly charred.
- Serve your cooked prawns with a scattering of salt and lemon wedges. Enjoy.
What is your favourite barbecue recipe? Has this post inspired any new ideas?