Monday, 3 February 2014

Ode to Mediterranean-style cooking!

Canarias Recipe Competition
Phat N' Phull lumbered toward the market, trudging through the thick slush and crisp crunch of snow with the taste of summer on our minds. We were eager to create a dish that relied on lots of fresh and pungent ingredients, like many mediterranean recipes we love. With our love of seafood in mind we cooked chilli braised octopus over fresh veggie tapenade, with blistered cherry tomatoes, crispy salumi, crumbly feta and fresh tzatziki.

Meagan massaged the octopus to tenderize the meat, then braised it in vegetable oil with chillies and lemon.  For the tapenade, Alannah diced and sizzled tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant, deglazed with sherry and balsamic, and blitzed it with capers and kalamata olives. 

When it was time to plate we made a bed with tapenade and olive oil and sprinkled it with the blistered tomatoes , crispy garlic, toasted pine nuts and tussles of salumi. We danced the octopus tentacles, now a little crispy from the grill, on top and crumbled some feta and swooped tzatziki to cut the saltiness the dish. We dined in the sunniest nook in Alannah's house, sharing our visions for the summer, and wishing it was late enough to drink some wine! The soft, savoury meat mixed with the creamy, garlic tzatziki and fresh tapenade made this dish the essence of a perfect mediterranean dish: comforting, fresh, and pungent with an element of creaminess to tone it down.

Octopus confit:
1 large frozen octopus, head removed, 
tentacles separated
half a lemon, charred
half a cooking onion, charred
1 red chilli, cut in thirds
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 sprig rosemary
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp. salt
vegetable oil

Let the octopus thaw completely. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Celsius. Grab its head and slice it off horizontally with a sharp knife and discard it. Following the indents of the tentacles, cut it in half and remove any shards from the head. Then simply separate each tentacle with your knife. Place the tentacles in a bowl and sprinkle with salt. You need to massage the salt into the tentacles for a few minutes each. When your finished put the tentacles in a casserole dish, or any oven safe dish with a lid that will fit. 

Char half a lemon and onion in the oven, on a grill or any way that will get it a little burnt. Add these and the rest of the ingredients in with the octo. Add vegetable oil until everything is covered. Put a lid on the casserole dish and bake for 2 hours. When finished, leave the octopus in the oil until it cools to room temperature. To serve, char on the barbecue or on a grill. 

Fresh vegetable tapenade:

1 green zucchini
half an eggplant
2 roma tomatoes
1 small shallot
1/2 cup green Kalamata olives
2 tbsp capers
balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper to taste

Dice and sauté the zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes and shallot until softened. Glaze with sherry and balsamic and let cook for one minute. Put everything in a bowl with the capers and pitted olives and using a hand emersion blender, gently pulse to combine. You still want the mixture to be chunky so be sure not to over blend. Add salt and pepper to taste while pulsing.  

Winter tzatziki:1 cup plain greek yogurt
3 garlic cloves, zested
1/2 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
1/4 cup cucumber, finely diced
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
salt & pepper to taste

Add all of the ingredients in a bowl and combine thoroughly.

Other garnishes for this dish:
Toasted pine nuts: Heat up 1/4 cup of pine nuts in a small sauté pan with a little bit of olive oil until brown. 
Crispy garlic: Finely slice 3 cloves of garlic width-wise, cover with olive oil in a pan and heat until brown, strain.
Crispy salumi: Julienne the salumi and toss with olive oil. Heat up a small sauté pan until crispy. Make sure not to brown.
Blistered cherry tomatoes: Heat up olive oil in a pan until smoking hot. Add tomatoes to pan, moving around occasionally until they appear charred on the sides. 

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