Grilled octopus baja–med style

Grilled octopus baja–med style

Chris Middleton

On a recent trip to Los Angeles I read about a new trend in Mexican food in Tijuana and Ensenada. Local celebrated chefs were creating a fusion of classic Mexican food with a modern Mediterranean influence. I crossed the border to see for myself and was amazed by the originality. Together with the quality of the local wine industry, with white wine styles similar to Galicia in Spain, this area is truly similar to the Mediterranean. This salsa takes its inspiration from the Mediterranean, in particular the Catalonian salsa picada.



Quantity Ingredient
125ml chardonnay vinegar
110g sugar
2 oranges, finely grated zest and juiced
2 bay leaves
sea salt
1.2kg best-quality large octopus tentacles
extra-virgin olive oil
pinch smoked paprika

Salsa picada

Quantity Ingredient
1 litre orange juice
50ml chardonnay vinegar
2 jalapenos, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
1 small bunch mint leaves
45g day-old coarse breadcrumbs, fried in 75 ml olive oil
50g hazelnuts, roasted, peeled and roughly chopped
1 large handful oregano leaves, finely chopped
habanero hot sauce, to taste


Quantity Ingredient
100g padron peppers
oil, for frying
pinch smoked paprika
300g green beans, blanched, split lengthways and cut into 3 cm lengths
4 oranges, segmented
2 red onions, thinly sliced
160g black olive cheeks
1 large handful basil leaves
100ml Latin vinaigrette


  1. To prepare the octopus, combine 500 ml water with the vinegar, sugar, orange zest and juice and bay leaves in a large saucepan and heat until simmering. Season with salt. Add the octopus and cook over low heat for 2 hours, or until very tender. Leave the octopus in the cooking liquid and set aside to cool.
  2. Meanwhile to prepare the salsa picada, boil the orange juice in a medium saucepan until reduced to 100 ml (31⁄2 floz). Combine the orange juice reduction with the vinegar, jalapeño, garlic and mint in a food processor and blend to combine. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve.
  3. Once the octopus has cooled, remove any excess skin or suckers that have been disturbed by the cooking process. Cut the tentacles into lengths, roughly 75 g each.
  4. Preheat a wood-fired or coal barbecue until the coals have a thin coating of grey ash. Add presoaked aromatic wood such as oak, mallee oak, ironbark or hickory. Alternatively, if using a gas barbecue soak smaller wood chips and place them in a smoking box on your barbecue. If you don’t have a barbecue you can seal the octopus in a large pan. Simply stir-fry in olive oil with a pinch of smoked paprika and sea salt for 2 minutes. Then reduce the heat and keep warm until serving.
  5. To prepare the salad, briefly fry the peppers in the oil and paprika, till softened.
  6. Combine the peppers, beans, orange segments, onion, olives and basil in a large bowl.
  7. Lightly drizzle the octopus with olive oil and season with salt and paprika. Grill for 4 minutes, turning occasionally, until cooked through.
  8. While the octopus is cooking, combine the breadcrumbs, hazelnuts, oregano and orange reduction and season with salt, hot sauce and a little olive oil to moisten to a spoonable consistency. (It’s important this is done just before serving otherwise you lose the crunchy texture.)
  9. Dress and toss the salad with the vinaigrette.
  10. To serve, arrange the octopus on a serving platter. Spoon over the salsa picada and arrange the salad alongside. Serve immediately.

Paul’s tips

  • Serve simply with the salsa picada and use frozen octopus, as it tends to cook quicker.

    The salsa picada can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Paul Wilson
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