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Tentacles of taste

OctOpus || A master of camouflage in the ocean, yet unmistakable on the plate, octopus is as delicious as it is healthy

High in proteins, low in fat, rich in minerals and vitamins and big on flavour, octopus is cooked in many different ways around the world. The Japanese revere it for sushi, the Italians for carpaccio and here in Portugal it is as much appreciated when dried and grilled as it is when stewed with rice in “Arroz de Polvo”, cooked and chilled in an octopus salad or roasted and served with garlic, potatoes and olive oil in “Polvo à Lagareiro”.

We asked Chef Rui Silvestre, proud recipient of a new Michelin star at Bon Bon restaurant in Carvoeiro, to use his creativity and come up with something special for us.

The dish, as can be seen here, is something of a work of art. Rui prepared the octopus in two different ways, one quite intricate and the other simplicity itself. A carpaccio was set in gelatinised tomato water and rolled into a perfect cylinder, served with a piece of boiled tentacle, each element allowing the natural flavour of the ingredient to shine, enhanced by an octopus jus and topped with imperial caviar. Contrasting with the main ingredients were grelot onions, beetroot and a purée of piquillo peppers. This dish is not on the menu, but it is a fine testament to the quality of Rui’s cooking, something which has finally caught the attention of the Michelin men.

And a final note on cooking octopus. It is often said that unless frozen, octopus will end up tough, but this is actually a myth, at least when dealing with fresh octopus caught locally. An average-sized tentacle can be cooked to melt-in-the-mouth tenderness in 30 to 40 minutes. Simply boil it in water, without salt and with half an onion (with the skin) and check for tenderness after 30 minutes. Cook a little longer if not entirely tender.

By Patrick Stuart