Culinary Anthropologist

Octopus on board

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Smpulpogallego0001.JPGRivalling caldo gallego for our favourite Galician dish was pulpo gallego, another local classic, this time found mainly in the towns and villages round the miles and miles of wrinkly coastline.  What makes this dish Galician is the way the octopus is cooked and served…

The octopus will be boiled till tender, cut into little discs with scissors and served (often with potatoes) on a wooden plate drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, salt and paprika.  It is absolutely delicious, and anyone who thinks they don’t like octopus should try it before spending much longer without octopus in their lives.

The hallmark of a good pulpo gallego is the tenderness of the octopus.  It should be tender but not mushy, and certainly not at all rubbery.  Opinions as to how this should be achieved vary, although everyone agrees you need to tenderise the octopus before cooking it.  To do this either whack it against some rocks several times once it has just been caught, then cook immediately.  Or, if this doesn’t appeal, freeze it for three days then defrost in the fridge before cooking.  

To cook, first dip it (whole) into a large vat of boiling water three times.  Different cooks gave me different reasons for this – to make the tentacle tips curl up attractively, said one; to help tenderise it, said another.  Then opinions really split – to cook the octopus for just 20 or so minutes, or to leave it in for two or three hours…  Either way, it should come out nice and tender.

The best tip we heard was this:  Add four corks to the pot when you boil the octopus.  Tenderness guaranteed.

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