Saturday, 21 December 2013

Octopus and Haggis

Enter the Kraken!
Everyone has their own tale of pot luck freezer bingo to share and I am no stranger to foraging through the desolate wasteland that is the bottom of our chest freezer and unearthing mysterious delights and artifacts of yesteryear. Organised people use pens and labels when they store food scraps, lumps of flesh and viscous liquids. I don't because I hate to deny myself the pleasure and thrill of bringing back bags of solidified matter from the bottom of the garden (our chest freezer is in our shed) and plonking it in a bowl, waiting for it to defrost. What can it be? How long has it been there? And more importantly, why did we freeze it in the first place? Precautions do need to be taken of course. A blow torch and crow bar is kept on standby, should the 'thing' come alive and attach itself to my face. Or worse still, to next door's cat. There is a lot be learnt from what happened to R.J.MacReady and those poor souls in Antarctica. However, the only thing that normally ever happens after the thaw is a state of confusion, rather than terror. I have frozen left over strawberry jelly before and to this day, I don't know why I did it.

But like I said, there are some pleasant surprises to be had and when I realised that I had some octopus in the freezer (left over from a bountiful trip to Billingsgate fish market) I went cock-a-hoop because I am quite partial to a bit of polpo yet have never cooked it at home before. The big question though was what to do with it. Octopus sort of sings summer and holidays in the Med to me, served cold with tomatoes and herbs or char-grilled with citrus zest. These cephalopods are meant to be great in stews but again the emphasis is normally on light seasonal flavours, rather than gutsy hearty winter grub. At a loss, as always I went on Twitter for suggestions and sommeALEier Melissa Cole came up with the idea of octopus stuffed with black pudding, garlic and parsley and braised in red wine, which sounded cracking. 

And then I got thinking some more, which can be dangerous, because I had some venison haggis in the fridge from Macsween which then kicked off a process of analytical thought that went along the lines of:

'Blood sausage, haggis, both meaty, spicy, a little bit offal-ly, a little bit whoar, could work, they are practically the same, except haggis doesn't have blood and black pudding doesn't contain oats, so really they are quite different but fuck it, I can't be bothered to go back out to the shops.'

So I put together a rather nice plate of food which all tied together surprisingly well. Sweet tender octopus tasting of the sea really does play well with the deep rich quality of haggis and the red wine sauce, reduced and intense, smacks you around the chops with the force of an amorous Kraken. And to give the whole dish a bit of extra zing, I sprinkled some fresh gremolata over the top.

In other words, you should try this. Seriously. Stop looking at me like that.

Octopus and Haggis - serves 2

1 medium sized octopus, cleaned, beak removed and beaten to within a inch of its life if fresh and dead or left alone if frozen and dead then de-frosted (freezing helps to tenderise it)

1 haggis (like I said, I had some Macsween venison haggis which sounds la-de-dah and was very lovely but in all honesty I couldn't tell the difference from regular haggis)

Half a bottle of red wine (I used a fine Valpolicella from Aldi)

1 onion, sliced

1 carrot, sliced

1 stick of celery, sliced

Half a head of garlic

A bouquet garni of parsley, thyme and bay

10 peppercorns, crushed

Large knob of butter and some more butter, cold and cubed to finish the sauce at the end.

Method

Take a casserole pot, one that is not too big but big enough to neatly fit your octopus whole and place on the hob over a medium heat. Add the butter and once it begins to foam, add the onion and gently fry until the onions become nice and soft. Then add the celery and carrot and bouquet garni cook off for another 5 minutes or so. Spread the vegetables evenly over the base of the pot and place the octopus on top, then pour the wine all. Bring up to a gentle simmer and continue to simmer for an hour until the octopus is tender enough to push a fork through the flesh.

Meanwhile, cook your haggis as per instructions. The Macsweens only takes 25 in boiling water (this was a limited edition sausage-worth of haggis though.

When cooked, remove your octopus and chop into bite sized pieces. Sieve the remaining red wine, removing the vegetables and herbs into a clean saucepan and place back onto the hob to reduce by two thirds. Take off heat, stir through a couple of cold cubes of butter to add some sheen and put the octopus bites back into to the sauce to warm through.

Plate up by spooning a bed of haggis on a warmed er..plate (I used to chef rings for extra 'ponce') and then pile up the octopus on top, scattering some of the prettier looking pieces around for even more ponce. Drizzle the reduce sauce over the top and add your sprinkle of gremolata. Serve straight away, with sauteed potatoes and carrots, if you so wish.



No beak
Venison Haggis no less
Octopus and Haggis
Sophistication on a plate

3 comments:

Alicia Foodycat said...

Venison haggis! Phwoar!

belleau kitchen said...

what do they say about not eating food together that would never meet?

Danny Kingston said...

Alicia Foodycat - Phwoar indeed!!

BK - Dom, I'll have you know there are actually some aquatic species of haggis that regularly come into contact with octopus in the deep blue briny sea. They are trickier to catch though, over their land dwelling counterparts.