Last year when I visited the Gerovassliou winery in Epanomi (near Thessaloniki), it was my second time for a tour of the winery and museum. As you will recall the first visit was cut-short because I arrived late and the winery was closing. I had to wait one whole year to come back tho this gorgeous winery and take in the tour in a more relaxed manner.
This time I got to meet Evangelos Gerovassliou and spend some time in the kitchen with his mother Marianthe who prepared a simple, local and delicious lunch of baked octopus and eggplant. Most of the octopus you and I see in the market is either frozen or was previously frozen. Frozen octopus is perfectly fine to use and few of us have the luxury of eating fresh-caught octopus. A visit to Greece this summer perhaps?
Fresh octopus is pounded on the rocks by the sea and then rubbed in a circular motion to tenderize and remove the sand that’s trapped in the suckers. The octopus you’ve purchased at your fish monger will have no sand but it still needs to be tenderized. The best way to do that is to braise the octopus in its own liquid – no need to add any other liquid as the octopus will release plenty of its own liquid. It’s a gift from the octopus – releasing it’s moisture to allow you to braise and tenderize the octopus and hence enjoying one of the most delicious creatures from the sea. You may add herbs, spices ( or both) but any extra-liquid is unnecessary.
After the octopus has braised in its own liquid until fork-tender, once can turn it into a salad, grill it, make a strew or baked it with pasta along with the delicious braising liquid or toss some vegetables and bake it in the oven. The combo of eggplant and octopus is an ages-old Greek favourite and the next time you see some octopus, try this recipe out and be transported to Greece through this simply preparedand delicious main.
Marianthe’s Baked Octopus and Eggplant
1 whole octopus, beak removed
4 large tomatoes, passed through a box grater
1/2 cup olive oil
4 small eggplants, thickly sliced & fried (Japanese eggplants are fine)
2-3 bay leaves
4-5 allspice berries
salt and pepper
1 cup of chopped parsley
fresh thyme or oregano
Pre-heated 400F oven
- To tenderize your octopus, rinse it and place in a pot large enough to contain it and cover. Place on your stove-top over medium heat and after 5-6 minutes uncover to see if the octopus has began to release moisture. Once you see about 1 inch of liquid place the cover back on, reduce the heat to medium low and braise the octopus in its own liquid for about 45-60 minutes or until the tentacles are just fork-tender. Take off the heat and reserve.
- Slice your eggplants into thick slices, season with salt and pepper and add some olive oil to a pan and lightly fry on both sides then reserve on paper-towel lined plate.
- In the same pan, add the remaining olive oil, the grated tomatoes, bay and allspice and simmer for 8-10 minutes or until the sauce has slightly thickened. Take off the heat and reserve. Pre-heat your oven.
- Use a knife to separate the eight octopus tentacles and place in a roasting pan along with the fried eggplant and pour in the tomato sauce and stir. Season with some salt and pepper and place in your pre-heated oven for 30-35 minutes or until the sauce is thick and the octopus has turned to a deep burgundy colour.
- Remove from the oven and garnish with chopped fresh parsley and fresh or dried Greek oregano and serve with good crusty bread and a Gerovassliou Evangelo.
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