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Author Notes: I had heard tell of a wonderful rice and octopus dish made by the friend of a Brazilian friend of mine, so when I was lucky enough to be in Rio, and eating dinner at his house, I asked him all about how to make it.
I was quite intimidated by the thought of cooking an octopus and unfortunately didn't have a chance to try it out in the presence of Marcelo himself. However, I decided the only way to overcome my fear was to face up to the tentacled creature as soon as possible, so I tracked one down and with the goal to make it taste good. And this is how I did it. —Highbohemian
octopus washed but whole (if you have a chance to put it into the freezer over night it actually helps tenderise it)
very large onions whole but without the skin
cloves of garlic, cut length ways into fat slices
a bunch of mustard greens or failing this some healthy and good radish greens (which is what I used as I couldn't find the former in that moment), thoroughly washed and picked for the best leaves
a bunch of broccoli, washed and made into smaller pieces, if you have access to broccoli rabe or cimi de rape they are better
a large bunch of parsley, washed, picked and chopped
a large bunch of cilantro, washed, picked and chopped
EV olive oil
salt and pepper
- Rice cooks in slightly different times depending where you are, so check what it says on the container you buy your rice in. Here in Rome, for instance, it takes 14 minutes. Rinse the rice in cold water in a sieve to get some of the starch off. Put the rice in a pan with a tight-fitting lid and cover with water the width of your thumb above the top of the rice. Put this on a medium to low flame and put the lid on. Set the timer to 14 mins (in my case) and make sure it doesn't overflow when the water comes to the boil (otherwise you have a hard time calculating how much more water to add, how hot for how long , etc.). As soon as the timer pings turn off the flame but leave the lid on to let the rice steam a little longer. After five minutes take off the lid and separate the grains with a fork, perhaps stirring in a drop or two of olive oil
- In a pan that is big enough to hold the whole octopus and the whole onion together with the lid fitting tight, place these two items. Put the pan over a medium flame. This is the scary bit as it seems as though the octopus will burn without any oil or liquid but in fact it starts to pour out its own liquid, as well as the onion, and starts to cook in it. You do have to watch this process (although the first time I didn't very well and it almost dried out) to make sure the liquid doesn't ever completely evaporate, so keep peeping in under the lid and regulate the temperature accordingly
- After about 40/45 minutes the octopus should feel tender and be cut easily and the onion will have practically melted away into the liquid at the bottom of the pan. If for some reason the liquid does evaporate add a bit of water so the animal doesn't have a chance to burn. Once it is cooked take the beast out of the pan and cut it up into bite sized pieces and reserve this on a plate
- Reserve also any of the cooking liquid and mash up the pulpy onion in it
- In a separate frying pan put 3 tablespoons of oil and bring up the temperature. When it is hot enough throw in the garlic in pieces and cook till it is golden. Remove two-thirds of the garlic and reserve on a plate
- throw in the octopus pieces swiftly followed by the broccoli and mustard greens. Cook these thoroughly till they wilt down
- add the rice, most of the chopped herbs, the liquid with the soft and squashy onion from the octopus, and a good dash of extra virgin olive oi
- Mix this all together and serve nice heaps in the middle of plates garnished with more herbs and some of the rest of your reserved golden garlic
- Note for serving: as a bit of a texture fetishist I love to make chifles (fried plantains) and sprinkle them on the top, adding crunch to the whole experience, I have uploaded how to make these too
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Dish with Meat as a Flavoring