Pickled octopus

Pickled octopus

A la Grecque
Mark Roper

A common sight in many seaside villages in Greece is a row of octopus strung up to dry along the edge of the water, like washing on a washing line. In southern parts of Australia we are very fortunate to have a ready supply of large octopus as a by-product of the crayfish industry. At A La Grecque, we never use imported frozen baby octopus from Asia because the local product is far superior.

A freshly caught octopus needs to be tenderised before it is cooked. For instant tenderising – if you have the energy – it can be bashed on the rocks at the water’s edge. But octopus is more commonly tenderised by freezing it for a couple of days. The water in the cells expands as it freezes, breaking down the cell walls and softening the flesh.

When handling a large octopus, I try to pull off as much of the blackish outer membrane as possible before cooking, as it is very difficult to remove after cooking without pulling the suckers off the tentacles. I like the suckers to remain intact on the tentacles, for presentation more than anything else. I feel it adds authenticity and interest to the dish.

This dish is quite rich and filling, so serve in small portions. It goes particularly well with a bread and tomato salad.


Quantity Ingredient
1 x 2kg whole ocean octopus
1 stalk celery, leaves attached, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
6 garlic cloves
handful black peppercorns
500ml white wine vinegar
6 stalks parsley
1 bay leaf


Quantity Ingredient
125ml extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup parsley, finely chopped
1/3 cup dill, finely chopped


  1. Wash the octopus and remove the beak. Turn the head inside out and wash away the contents. Pull away the black outer skin from the tentacles and cut them off the head. Place all the bits and pieces in a large saucepan with the vegetables, garlic, peppercorns, vinegar and herbs. It may not look as if there is much liquid, but the octopus will release a lot of liquid as it cooks. Cover the saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the ingredients from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  2. Test the octopus with a sharp knife. It should be quite tender. Lift it out of the pan and discard the remaining ingredients and cooking liquid. Leave the octopus to cool then cut into 3 cm pieces.
  3. Whisk the dressing ingredients together and pour over the cold octopus. Serve as a starter with bread and tomato salad.
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