Ingredients

100g table salt
1 litre water (for brine) plus 1 litre (for steaming)
1 small fresh or defrosted octopus (approx 1kg, head removed)
1 fennel bulb, stems sliced (set the bulb aside for the salad)
½ onion, roughly sliced
½ stalk celery, roughly sliced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly toasted
½ lemon, sliced
2 sprigs thyme
1 bayleaf
3 egg yolks
zest and juice of 2 limes
zest and juice of 1 pink grapefruit/pomelo
zest and juice of 2 lemons
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
hot sauce (Huffmans, Kaitaia Fire, Tabasco) to taste
pinch cayenne pepper
250ml extra virgin olive oil
200ml canola oil
1-2 grapefruit extra for salad
If the octopus tentacles are spindly and thin, they won’t need a 24-hour brine – cut this back by 4 to 5 hours. Once cooked, the flesh should be tender but not mushy; the best way to check is to try a piece once it’s been steamed, as everyone likes octopus cooked a little differently, so find what is good for you. The mayo recipe makes more than is required, but it’s much easier to do a larger amount and the mayo is great combined with a little crème fraîche for a potato salad. A good amount of hot sauce is needed to lift the zestiness, and probably more salt than you think – trust your palate.

Instructions

1.The day before cooking, make a brine with the salt and 1 litre of water.
2.Rinse the octopus under cold running water, massaging tentacles to remove any black from the suckers.
3.Submerge in the brine and chill for 24 hours. If there isn’t enough brine, just mix up a bit more using the same ratios.
4.On the day, place all the aromatics into a deep saucepan along with another litre of water.
5.You will be steaming above this pot, so it needs to be deep enough that the aromatic liquor doesn’t boil rather than steam the octopus.
6.Bring the liquor to a simmer and boil gently for 10 minutes before you begin the steaming.
7.Drain and rinse the octopus, separating the tentacles with a knife if needed.
8.Place in a single layer in a steamer insert or a bamboo steamer basket. They can be fairly close together; as they cook, the flesh will pull away, allowing more steam through.
9.Steam over a medium heat, with the lid on, for 15-25 minutes until a knife can easily pierce the flesh. Set aside.
10.Use a food processor or a hand-held whisk to combine the yolks with all the zest and juices, the mustard, a good few pinches of salt, a few splashes of hot sauce and the cayenne.
11.Slowly add the oils in a thin, steady stream.
12.If the mayo gets too thick too quickly, add a drop or two of water (it should drip off a spoon easily, but not be runny).
13.Season to taste.
14.TO SERVE, peel the whole grapefruit and cut into segments.
15.Finely shave the reserved fennel bulb on a mandolin or by hand.
16.Shock in a little iced water with a squeeze of lemon; drain well.
17.Heat a large frying pan over a high heat.
18.Once hot, add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan, then fry a couple of tentacles at a time.
19.Allow the skin to colour, then turn to colour the other side.
20.Once all the octopus is caramelised, cut into bite-sized pieces, arrange on top of the fennel.
21.Serve garnished with grapefruit and generous dollops of the mayo.

Recipes & food styling Teresa Pert / Photography Amber-Jayne Bain

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