Warm Octopus Salad

 Warm Galician octopus polpo salad

 The more I cook, the more I realise I want to cook. Each meal becomes a fabulous opportunity to do something I want to and something to be savoured. We all have our trusty standbys and favoured dishes, but when the chance to do something completely new comes along it thrills me. So when Liz* from Brixtonia suggested getting together and cooking fresh octopus, I was all over the idea. I’ve never met seafood I don’t love and it seemed like a perfect challenge.

I have to admit that I didn’t have a clue what to do with our eight legged friend so luckily Liz has access to a stack of cookbooks with some good ideas and emailed me several, mainly from Rick Stein. We pondered over two and couldn’t quite decide on which so thought we’d combine them both. But first up was getting our items. We needed a trip to the market.

Saturday morning saw us up relatively bright and early and in the queue at Dagon’s for our octopus. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again many times, Dagon’s is the jewel in Brixton Market’s crown. They have a vast choice, good quality, are excellent value and have friendly and helpful staff. I try to go at least once a week and I must admit I get a real kick out of being recognised by the staff there now. It’s like visiting the 50s high street but with more women’s lib and better banter.

They talked us through buying the octopus and we went for one whole cleaned octopus. I forgot to weigh it when I got home but it cost us a very reasonable £4 for the whole thing. We also picked up some samphire, a kipper fillet for me and a mackerel for Liz and the whole lot came to an even eight quid. Can’t say fairer than that. We got everything we needed and a box of Alphonso mangoes we just wanted and then got down to the cooking.

Galician Octopus Salad (From Rick Stein’s Spain)

  • 1 clean octopus
  • 400g waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  •  2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp paprika (of your choice)
  • 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper if not using hot paprika.
  • 1 tbsp salt

This is so simple it’s untrue. Take your cleaned octopus and put in a pan just covered with water and the tablespoon of salt and bring to the boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes to an hour. That’s it. That’s how you cook an octopus. We didn’t tenderise it in anyway, either by freezing and thawing or bashing it against the rocks or anything else. We shoved it in a pot of water, left it well alone and went and had a glass of wine and a good gossip.


After an hour, we came back and lifted the octopus out of the cooking water and left it to cool on a plate. It had turned the beautiful mauve we both associated with Spanish octopus dishes and the tentacles had curled in beautifully. We added the potatoes into the remaining cooking water and brought them to the boil until tender but still al dente. Then heat the olive oil, add the paprika and cayenne and fry the potatoes until golden and crispy.

Cooked octopus ready to slice

While they are sauteeing nicely, cut the octopus into inch or so chunks, using both the tentacles and the head and body. Take the potatoes off the heat and add the octopus in for a few seconds just to warm it through and coat it with the paprika. Dish up with some chopped parsley (our concession to the other recipe we had planned as well) along with some vegetables if you so fancy (we did steamed samphire and roasted aubergine and tomatoes) and enjoy!

The octopus was firm but very tender without a hint of rubberiness. It was slightly sweet and very flavoursome, especially alongside the potatoes. Slightly salty, intensely umami and crispy round the edges, these were the best fried potatoes I’ve ever had. Simple and packed with flavour, the whole meal was fantastic. We feasted well, but with a few more spuds, the one octopus would easily serve 3 -4 making it good value as well as impressive and delicious. Until now, all my cephalopod ardour was reserved for squid, but there’s another many legged love in my life now I’ve discovered octopus…


*Thanks to Liz for her cooking skills, being an excellent guest and taking that fantastic sea creature shot!

7 replies
  1. Becs @ Lay the table
    Becs @ Lay the table says:

    I hope that was Norfolk samphire you had! I was so excited when I saw samphire was available in our local Asda all year round but it’s from Israel!

    Sounds like Mr Inky met a tasty end – I haven’t tried it before but I think the tentacles put me off? Really surprised at how long you cooked it for as most seafood seems to cook really quick. A bargain meal – only a few squid! (Sorry couldn’t resist)

  2. Miss South
    Miss South says:

    Becs, I didn’t ask where the samphire was from but it was advertised as seasonal so I’m hoping it was Norfolk stuff. It was lovely so I’ll be buying it again and will ask.

    Mr Inky was excellent. Octopus are much tougher and thicker than squid so need cooked for longer to be edible. But you can cook squid for 30 seconds or 30 minutes, nothing in between or you get rubber on the plate. I found the octopus looked less droopy and tentacle-esque than squid and the tentacles curled up cutely when cooked. I’d highly recommend it if you can get one!

  3. Miss South
    Miss South says:

    Heather, yes the samphire was from Dagon’s too. They usually have it when it’s in season (like about now) but you couldn’t guarantee they’ll have it everytime you go. They’ve had it two Saturdays in a row if that helps?

  4. Mister North
    Mister North says:

    I made this last week, after getting an octopus from Bolton Market. My eight-legged friend was unprepared (he weighed about 1kg before cleaning) so I had to remove the beak, entrails etc before cooking. I also de-skinned the head but otherwise followed your recipe pretty much to the letter. It was brilliant!

    Dead easy, looked as pretty as a picture, and felt much more Mediterranean than the weather outside was. And the meat was tender, soft and delicious. Thumbs up (all eight of them!)

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