Octopus Daube

  • Time: 4 hrs
  • Serves: 4
  • Level: medium

‘… Not everybody’s cup of tea, but it’s great to watch dad experiment with strange creatures of the sea.’

'So this was an interesting dish, who cooks octopus on a Thursday evening?'

What you need

For the daube

1 large frozen octopus – roughly 1.5kg

3 cloves of garlic

2 sticks of celery

2 medium onions

2 carrots

1 red pepper

2 bay leaves

3 sprigs of fresh thyme

1 large sprig parsley

300 ml red wine

500g tomatoes

1 tbs tomato paste


To finish

500g potatoes

300g green beans

300g peas

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

1 sprig of rosemary

1 bay leaf

1 small hand-full chopped fresh parsley

Salt and pepper

Dad's Recipe Tales

Octopus three ways.

I recently ordered an octopus from my fishmongers. A week later it arrived in a solid frozen block. I went off with the octopus imagining how I might cook it. I settled on three ways. On my return to the fishmongers I mentioned that I cooked his octopus three ways, but because it had eight legs, it was a bit tricky dividing into three! We both laughed. I showed him photographs on my phone; octopus the first way then the second – and then put my phone away. Where’s the ‘third way’ he asked. I said it was in the freezer, as I couldn’t get my wife to eat octopus three nights in a row! We both laughed again. You see? Octopus not only tastes good, it’s also good for a laugh!

Now a couple weeks later, I have removed the remaining octopus from the freezer. The first two versions were cooked in a Spanish and an Italian style, so I decided to cook the third in a French style. Richard Olney in his book, ‘Simple French food’  suggests that an octopus would be very good cooked as a daube, i.e. as a French Provencal stew. I had some trepidation with the idea of octopus braised with aromatic vegetables, (as if it were neck of lamb or shin of beef), but in fact it is not that far removed from a zarzuela – or as Mr. Olney mentions, the rich tomato and garlic based sauces associated with seafood, such as a la Setoise, Nicoise or Provencal.

It turns out that the ‘third way’ is very good.

How Dad Cooked It

This is best cooked to eat the following day.

  1. Defrost the octopus and wash. Remove the beak and clean inside the head. Cut-up the octopus. The head can be cut into 4 and the body into sections of two legs each.
  2. Use a large earthenware casserole with a tight-fitting lid or similar enamel cast iron pot.
  3. Chop the celery, carrot and onions into small pieces, (they will be served with the stew). Slice the pepper into pieces. Crush the garlic cloves. Peel and de-seed the tomatoes.
  4. Place all the ingredients into the pot – add water to cover half way. Place in the oven at low heat – 150C gas 2. Cook for 2 hours. Check the octopus, if it is tender remove from the oven. If not continue to cook until it is tender then remove from the oven.
  5. Leave to cool and refrigerate overnight.
  6. Do not handle or stir the octopus roughly as the attractive purple coating will come off. Carefully remove the octopus pieces and discard the herbs and bay leaves. Heat the cooking sauce in a large pan, add additional fresh thyme leaves, and fresh bay leaf. Reduce the liquid if necessary to make a rich but generous sauce.
  7. Peel and cut the potatoes into serving-sized chunks. Chop the beans into 2cm lengths. Cook the potatoes peas and beans separately in boiling water until just tender. Drain and add to the stew.
  8. Carefully add the octopus to the stew and reheat gently.
  9. Season and serve in large pasta plates with plenty of crusty bread.

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