Just call me James Bond

There seems to be some debate, on the internet anyway, what the correct and proper plural term for ‘Octopus’ is.

I thought it would be ‘Octopi’, and so did many other people as it turns out, however, it is actually ‘Octopuses’.  Perhaps Octopussy is better, certainly for this purpose, as I essentially claimed James Bond status this week by taking down four octopuses in one sitting. Octopussy’s. Whatever…

It’s not every week in this challenge I get to eat multiple animals in the one feed. I won’t be having three Turkeys at Christmas. Well, it’s highly unlikely- I can put myself to sleep with food and general gluttony on December 25th. It’s one of my talents, but 3 birds is a lot (special things being planned for the last two weeks of 2012, however…).

Anyway, I sit here essentially rambling to myself in a reasonably jovial mood, which is a welcome relief to the, ah, relative panic I felt around Tuesday. Regardless of how much I have enjoyed this meaty challenge, I always knew that the end was going to be the hard part; where the meat options act like the crown on my head and slowly thin out. Maybe the meats are thinning quicker (Hopefully), but the reality of it really hit home when I sat down at my laptop and perused my list.

 

Let me explain what this list looks like:

A simple numbering system of 1 through to a few past 52. Land based animals that walk on four legs at the top, birds and then seafood. Once a meat is done I bold it. Like I said- simple. At the start there were obviously only a few in bold and it was fun looking at what meats I had to come. Now there are very few not in bold, especially at the top of the page.

This means I’m facing a few weeks of cooking things I’ve dead set got no idea about. What does one do with jellyfish? I guess we’ll soon see…

So I panicked somewhat and started to fear that this whole challenge could come undone by not being able to source something I need.  Tom the butcher received a visit as well as a list of meats I would dearly like to acquire and I hit the information superhighway in search of anyone who can get me some wallaby, a camel’s hoof, goanna, anything I haven’t yet done that falls inside the realms of legality and comfortable population numbers. Koala is still out…

 

What else is there I can do?

This is basically the thought that haunted me for a few days. In fact it still does. But, I have since had a small reality check and a self imposed ‘man up’ and decided that the things from the ocean that I have dead set been avoiding through pure lack of knowledge and balls to attempt, have to be done. Just suck it up and do it.

Octopus is well in truly outside my comfort zone.

100% it is, but I figure a positive attitude and enough research will surely lead me down a path towards a delicious, or at the very least edible, meal. On Thursday night I watched roughly an hour’s worth of videos on Youtube, mostly about preparing octopus but some about cooking. I then searched my cookbooks for recipes only to come up empty. I searched for Jamie Oliver recipes, but also found this rather fruitless. I then forgot about it the entire next day until I was close to hitting the fishmonger. Not with my fist, but with my custom.

Once there I realised, through the medium of speech and questions that the helpful bloke serving me can do all of the prep work for me, so those videos, albeit educational, were basically pointless for my current endeavour.

What did I do with the octopuses?

Throwing the term around willy nilly now aren’t I…

I was frantically searching for recipes for a Baby Octopus Salad, and found numerous options. None grabbed me entirely; some bits and pieces from about 4 recipes stole bites of my interest. Flying in the face of recent failures due to my own ‘recipe’ inventions (in case you forgot- the Python) I decided to take a little from a few and make my own recipe up.

It’s at this point a snippet of doubt takes up residency in one corner of my mind.

Plus I know NN wasn’t over the moon at the idea of eating octopus, so if I wanted to avoid a fake smile and forced “yeah, it’s good”, then I had better not f**k this up.

Luckily I came home full of enthusiasm and unfounded confidence. As well as 3 lists full of ingredients. One to marinate the baby octopus, one for the salad and one for a salsa/dressing.

I eagerly got stuck in making the marinade and just as eagerly bashed the hell out of the collective octopus as I’d heard it was a good idea to try and tenderise them, or risk over cooking and turning into what you might be able to imagine a poorly cooked piece of Python might be like…

I don’t think this did much, but I had the marinade ready to go and the 8 legged/tentacled creatures found their new temporary home.

 

The marinade consisted of:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Roughly crushed fresh garlic
  • Chopped fresh coriander
  • One chopped fresh red chilli
  • A sprinkle of Chinese five spice
  • The juice of one lime

I put all of these in the blender and it was ready in seconds. The aroma was delightful and I knew this was going to help these little guys taste good.

 

Next -the all new Paw Paw and Chilli Salsa.

Paw Paw Salsa you say? Yep, this was Meat Mike Campbell in full invention mode, but essentially just bastardising a few other recipes by taking the best parts and wistfully thinking mine will be better (note: it probably was. Just saying).

The ingredients :

  • Finely chopped paw paw
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • One chopped fresh red chilli
  • Finely chopped fresh coriander
  • The juice of one lime
  • Rock salt and cracked pepper

I snuck a taste and the forecast for dinner was looking good.

What next?

At this stage I prepared the mixed salad leaves, which is to say I left them as they were- ready to go. I diced some more paw paw, chopped the remaining coriander, roasted some walnuts and relaxed.

I still didn’t know what the octopus would turn out like, and the meal as a whole for that matter, but I was feeling pretty confident by this stage.

Once NN arrived I fired up the pan, got it hot, dried off the octopuses and dumped them into cook ever so quickly, as I had been warned numerous times already. They curled and twisted and generally looked like they’d rather be back at sea than in the pan. Well too bad really, as they soon made it to the top of the mixed leaf, coriander and paw paw salad, to then be dressed with the paw paw and chilli salsa.

 

How did the Meat Mike Campbell Baby Octopus creation turn out?

From tentative beginnings early in the week, I was now a fully fledged fan of the octopus! This meal was awesome, in fact I scoffed it! The octopus was perfectly cooked and the flavours were immense but absolutely stunning. This salsa will be coming back for sure! In fact I tried a little left over on some roasted lamb the following day and it left me wanting much more.

 

NN was the same- once a full sceptic on eating octopus and generally dreading this meal with a brave face on- now claims to have “had her opinion well and truly changed” thanks to me of course!

I have to be honest, I kind of arrogantly envisioned this when I first sat down to research, but I didn’t expect the flavours and satisfaction that resulted.

I will easily and happily eat this meal again. What’s more if you already like octopus then seriously give this recipe a go. Although I should state- it would help if you like paw paw and coriander too… Plus the nutrition from this wild meat is another great addition to a healthy diet. A great lean protein source, full of omega 3 fatty acids and many vital minerals and vitamins.

 

And all of a sudden I’m full of confidence again, stepping outside my comfort zone has once again reaped massive rewards and I have grown as a ‘chef’ over night. Finally, after bombing with the Python, a leap of blind faith pays off.

Next challenge please…

That of course will be week 35 next week, but until then- please send me your feedback and let me know if you’re trying my recipes and share this post around. In order for me to grow this blog and get my challenge and story out there to even more people, I need your help in sharing this on Facebook and twitter.

On that note- welcome to all new readers! Thanks for your time. Keep looking around, there’s heaps of awesome tales on here. Please feel free to comment below and ask any questions you may have.

James Bond out…

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