Pulpo a la Gallega

Octopus. The idea of it is so appealing when you see it on a menu… slow cooked, char grilled, tender and fleshy, new born into a sea of olive oil and garlic and Mediterranean fantasy. You could be sitting in a trattoria in Italy, a taverna in Greece, or a whatever they call a place where you get drunk and eat good food anywhere else. It’s a holiday dish, the kind of food you eat when you’re off somewhere else far from home pretending to be young and adventurous and carefree. “I’ll have the octopus and a carafe of the house white” You say with a confidence born from a sun tan you really don’t deserve.

Then long after the memory of the holiday and the tan have faded, you’re back home trying to explain to all your friends just how amazing this octopus dish you had was…So you pick up one up in the local fish monger, and the grim reality of this carnivorous marine mollusk sets in. Octopuses are not pretty creatures. They’re long, wet, slimy, unwieldy things that defy your attempts to nicely put them in a bag, and once you do, more closely resemble the contents of a larger animals stomach, than something you should consider eating.

Of course, we are in the fortunate position in 2012 of knowing that millions of people have gone before us to both cook and enjoy this wonderful creature, and the advent of modern fishing has made it’s capture and transportation to our homes much simpler than bygone eras where you had to wrestle with one yourself. Risking life, limb and ink-eye to get your evening meal.

So in true “What I did on my holidays” fashion, here is a dish that I came to love while traveling around the north of Colombia. It is of course of a classic Spanish dish from the North West region of Galicia, from which it’s name is derived Pulpo alla Gallega (Galician Octopus).

Now there are many areas of conjecture as to which approach to take to cooking the octopus, so I’m not going to go out on a limb and say that my way is the right way, but it worked well for me the few times I’ve made it, so let your conscience be your guide as to how you do yours.

Ingredients

  • 1 large fresh octopus (~1kg in weight)
  • ~1kg potatoes (waxy ones like Ruby Lou or Kipfler work well)
  • The best Spanish sweet paprika you can find
  • Good quality olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh flat leaf parlsey
  • 1 bay leaf

How I made mine

Gingerly take your octopus by the top part, which hopefully has the head and beak removed, and is comprised of a ring where all the legs are attached. In a large bowl in the sink, wash the octopus well in cold water. Some people say you should freeze the octopus before you start, as that helps to tenderise it, but I haven’t felt the need to do that (it gets perfectly tender when it’s cooked for long enough).

Then in the biggest pot you can find (the Spanish say it needs to be a copper pot, but I think you can do just fine without), fill with water and a bay leaf and bring to the boil.

Once the water is boiling carefully dunk the octopus into the water and leave it there for 30 seconds. You’ll see the water stops boiling as the cold octopus lowers the temperature, so after 30 seconds, take it back out and let the water come to the boil again. This process of dunking into boiling water is supposed to set the gelatine in the legs and helps to preserve the texture you want.

Dunk the octopus back in and out of the water 3 more times and then leave it in there for around 40 minutes on a high simmer until you can pierce it with a knife and it’s soft inside with some resistance outside.

About 20 minutes into the cooking processes, peel the potatoes and drop them into the pot with the octopus whole. They’ll cook along with the octopus and absorb all that briny flavour. They’ll also turn a slightly alarming shade of red, which you shouldn’t be scared by.

Then when the potatoes and octopus are cooked, take them out and let them cool down on a board, before cutting the octopus into round slices along the leg, and slicing the potato into slightly larger rounds. The arrange the potatoes on a plate or board, season liberally with good sea salt and olive oil, and then add a layer of octopus to the top. Season again with more oil, a healthy sprinkling of paprika, and some finely chopped fresh parsley.

Serve it on it’s own, with some crusty bread, or as the first course in a Spanish feast. Make sure you have plenty of crisp white wine, invite a few people who understand what it’s all about, and enjoy the satisfaction that you can bring the best of the world to your door step if you really want to.

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Spanish Flavours

Rosa Jamon

** Update **

Rosa and Spanish Flavours have finally moved to their new location at the top end of Oxford St, Mt Hawthorn. They are no longer in the Wembley Food Court. The new premises has the deli section as before with chorizo, jamon, and cheeses, and then on the other side is a cafe where they’ll be serving coffee, churros and breakfasts.

New location is 413 Oxford St, Mt Hawthorn (or close to it, look for the Spanish flag coloured building).

I’ve been telling everyone I know about Spanish Flavours since the first time I found about it myself. It is the only (to my knowledge) Spanish providore in Perth, and more importantly, the only one run by Rosa, the dynamo proprietor and doyen of all things Spanish.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a home cook or an award winning chef who’s been running restaurants for years. Rosa will tell you how it’s done. Her cheeky smile and attitude are what fills the humble little store with life and makes it something special. Just ask a few stupid questions (like I do every time), then sit back and wait to be educated.

Rosa’s chorizo is used all over Perth by the most discerning chefs. You’ll find it on the menu at Cantina with her name attached in homage. I really can’t quite say just how much I love it. There was a phase not so long ago where I think I lived on it for the better part of a few weeks. I’d put it in omelettes, paella, risotto, pasta, grilled, fried in red wine, fried in cider, fried in it’s own luscious fat and juices. Friends and late night visitors to my place will attest to just how satisfying it is to mop up a bowl of Roas’s fried chorizo with a thick piece of bread smothered in butter.

flaming chorizo

Aisde from chorizo, her’s is also the best place to find jamon iberico, jamon serrano, manchego cheese, a delicious goats cheese that the name of which escapes me, quince paste, guava paste, saffron, tortilla flour, smoked paprika, paella pans, cazuelas, paella rice (calasparra), and everything else you need to make your next Spanish dish as authentic as possible.

Also, *plug plug plug* if you’d like to know a little more about the delightful lady that is Rosa and her possible links to the world of gypsy magic and mind reading, check out my article in the latest edition of Spice Magazine, which aside from what I scribble down on napkins and throw at Anthony to print, is a rather quality publication with fantastic local content.

Rosa was kind enough to donate some of her time doing what she loves best (talking) so I could put together a little story about the shop, where she’s come from, and where she’s going.

Jabugo La Jabuguena JamonSpanish Flavours :: Guava pasteSpanish Flavours :: ChorizoSpanish Flavours :: PimentonSpanish Flavours :: Paella seasoningSpanish Flavours :: GuayaquilSpanish Flavours :: Papa CriollaCazuelaJamonJamonSlicing Jamon at Spanish FlavoursSlicing Jamon at Spanish FlavoursSlicing Jamon at Spanish FlavoursRosa from Spanish FlavoursRosa from Spanish FlavoursRosa from Spanish Flavours

Spanish Flavours
413 Oxford St
Mt Hawthorn
(08) 9284 1313 (unless it’s changed)

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Pata Negra

Jamon serrano from Pata Negra restaurant Spanish red wine from Pata Negra David Coomer is about as close as Perth gets to food royalty. His Star Anise restaurant in Shenton Park has been a mainstay at the top end of the dining scene for many years, and his reputation for sourcing great quality produce and making beautiful dishes out of them has placed him at the top of his game. Which is why there's been such interest in his latest venture, Pata Negra. When the announcement was made that David Coomer was going to be opening a Spanish restaurant in Nedlands, a great thrill ran through the collective stomachs of the greater dining community of Perth, hoping perhaps, that someone would come and pull us up from the quagmire of mediocre tapas restaurants. Imagine my surprise then, to run into David at my favourite Spanish providore (article coming), buying much of the same ingredients as I do for said new restaurants launch party (though perhaps in slightly larger quantities than I ever have). I took some delight in the fact that he had to put up with as much, if not more hassle dealing with Rosa the feisty Spanish providore as I ever have. Who's opinion on food and all things Spanish is undeniably parochial, and ultimately final. Regardless of whether she's talking to a novice or an award winning chef. After chatting for a while David kindly invited me along to the media launch the coming Sunday evening, a chance to explain the concept and demo some dishes before a full restaurant opening the following Tuesday. I wandered around chatting to wait staff and chefs Matt Stone (former sous chef from Star Anise) and Kurt Samson (previously of the Builders Arms and Momo in Melbourne), who will be heading up Pata Negra while David controls the reigns at Star Anise. It was a great night and a chance to sample some of the menu in it's infancy, which had the immediate effect of whetting my appetite for the real deal. Now I'm not prone to rhetoric as much as other writers in the food game in our fair city, but I will say that despite the build up, and all the hype, my first meal at Pata Negra was fantastic. So forgive me if I leave out details of the rustic mismatched furniture and glassware, and the warmly arcane lighting fixtures. I'll also also brush over the unexpectedly icy dash to the bathrooms via the outdoors, and the unexplained mineral water that was poured into the next door tables glasses. Which are not all superfluous, but didn't detract from the experience.
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