The ocean provides us with a great diversity of delicious food. In warmer waters, we find some remarkable cephalopods, the most popular pair being squid and octopus.
Some squeamish diners might not be into visible tentacles of properly prepared squid, or seeing octopus suckers looking up at them from their plate. But then those that know, appreciate the succulent flavour of these amazing sea creatures. For everyone else, there’s always the squid tube to flash fry with some spices.
In Tokyo, a man named Jiro Ono is probably the finest sushi chef, or Itamae as they say in Japan. The guy has spent his life dedicated to preparing seafood and getting the best texture and flavour from pretty much every aquatic creature you can think of. To prepare octopus, Jiro has it massaged in a bowl for 45 minutes before taking a knife to it. Short of hiring a masseuse into your kitchen brigade, Jiro just gets the apprentice to carry out this long job.
However, many of the chefs I know haven’t got time to give an octopus a rub down for the best part of an hour and use other techniques to soften the texture of the tentacles. Long, slow braising helps stop octopus from going chewy, or in time strapped situations, boiling for under five minutes also works a treat. For the very best results, consider blanching the tentacles in boiling water, then baking covered in an oven for 2-3 hours. This helps the octopus to retain its flavourful juices, and not dry out or go chewy.
Octopus is a delicious treat that never gets the attention on menus it deserves, which is why we have tried to make things easy for kitchens and now offer Cooked Octopus Tentacles that are ready to be hit with your marinades and utilised in dishes from salads to tapas-style sharing plates.
While octopus might not traditionally get a huge amount of menu play in the UK, squid has long been a favourite. Maybe it’s the fact that punters are more familiar with it by the name calamari, which hides the identity of the animal a little bit. Our love for calamari is also helped in no small part because we enjoy it dredged in seasoned flour and deep-fried. On a warm day, nothing hits the spot quite like some crisp, warm calamari and a glass of something cold and fizzy – I’m looking at you Prosecco.
It’s also worth looking away from your traditional calamari rings, the whole tube of the squid can be kept intact and prepared by inserting a chef’s knife into it, then making horizontal slices with another knife. What you will be left with is a bright white squid tube that opens like a concertina. Simply hit this with some cracked black pepper and a bit of grated fresh ginger before introducing it to a frying pan, and you have something pretty special on your hands. Just be sure not to salt the squid as this draws the moisture out and makes the squid turn into a rubber band.
However you plan to prepare your squid and octopus, make sure you keep things simple and let the majestic flavours of these cephalopods speak for themselves.