Call it ‘arroz con pulpo’ or octopus rice!

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It has been almost a year since I last posted a food experience on freddyO. Over the past few months, I have continued to explore Spain, especially the Basque country through my cooking. For me, the amazing aspect of food is that you can explore the world from the comfort of your kitchen. But for now, I have settled in the beautiful Basque country, where I am discovering the foods of Pamplona, Navarra, Donostia and towns like Hondarribia. Cooking and wine have an origin and provide a door wide open to our globe.

Before making it back to my blog, I pondered about the recipe I should post, a traditional Basque recipe or a Spanish recipe that represent its many regions. On this occasions, the latter, I had to choose a recipe that has key ingredients of Spain – arroz con pulpo or rice with octopus was the perfect one for me. For the reasons that rice is an essential ingredient in Spain. The main variety of rice used are senia, bomba, thaibonnet and bahia, all short grain varieties that can absorb a lot of liquid. For this recipe, I used bomba rice, which is now found in many grocery stores in Sydney. The other key ingredient for this recipe is an octopus. I don’t think you will ever find anyone in Spain that does not like this simple, generous sea creature. In Galicia or the neighboring region of Leon, pulpo a feira, as it is known in Galician, or pulpo a la gallega, as it is called in Spanish, is popular throughout Spain. Bring these two major ingredients together, and you get arroz con pulpo!

The sweet gelatinous flesh of the octopus is a perfect match for the earthiness of the rice. This dish is not another elaborate paella; instead, it represents the essence of simplicity and contrast of Spanish food.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

1kg octopus
400g bomba rice
1 tablespoon Spanish sweet paprika
sea salt
Sofrito:
80 ml olive oil
2 white onions
2 garlic cloves
4 bay leaves
4 large red capsicums
4 ripe tomatoes

Preparation

To cook the octopus, bring a large pot of water to the boil. When the water begins to boil, plunge the octopus in the water for 12 seconds then remove. Bring the water to the boil again then repeat the process four times. After the last plunge, bring the water to a slow simmer, and leave the octopus to cook for 30 minutes. Remove the octopus; it should be tender and still intact. Allow the octopus to cool, cut into 1 cm pieces and reserve 1 litre of the octopus stock, as it will be used to make the arroz con pulpo.

Start to make the sofrito by heating oil in a paella pan or large frying pan, add the onions, garlic bay leaves, with a large pinch of salt. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes until onions are soft and translucent. Add capsicum and cook for 20 minutes, occasionally stirring until it’s soft, then add the tomatoes and cook for another 20 minutes, or until rich and jam-like.

Add the rice and mix to coat the rice well. Cook for 2 minutes, until the rice, becomes translucent. Slowly pour in the octopus stock, spread the rice evenly all over the pan and leave the rice to cook at medium heat for 18 minutes. In the last 5 minutes increase the heat to high, add the octopus pieces to the pan and sprinkle the paprika. By increasing the heat, you are aiming to get a crust (socorat) to form at the bottom.

This dish can be well matched with an Albariño from Rias Baixas, Galicia. Enjoy or buen provecho!

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