Coal-grilled octopus with smoked butter and almonds, chilli and green strawberries

AT A GLANCE

  • Serves 4 people

"I adore Gerard's octopus dish. Would you please ask for the recipe?"
Dee Wright, Emerald, Qld

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  • 2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tsp each coriander seeds and black peppercorns
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 6 thyme sprigs
  • 1 kg octopus tentacles
  • 6 underripe strawberries, thinly sliced
  • To serve: red shiso and thinly sliced red chilli
  •  
  • Spiced oil
  • 4 cardamom pods, bruised
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 long red chillies, split
  • 1 litre (4 cups) vegetable oil
  • 1 head garlic, halved crossways
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  •  
  • Smoked butter and almonds
  • 100 gm hickory chips, soaked in water for 10 minutes
  • 250 gm butter, cut into 2cm cubes, frozen
  • 100 gm blanched almonds
  •  
  • Chilli sauce
  • 50 ml vegetable oil
  • 2 golden shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 30 gm harissa (see note)
  • 50 gm tomato passata
  • 50 ml white wine
  • 100 ml fish stock
  • 1 long red chilli, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp ras el hanout (see note)
  • Juice of 1 lime
01   Place celery, coriander seeds, peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme and 4 litres of water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Dip octopus in and out of the boiling water 5 times, then reduce heat to low and submerge octopus and simmer, ensuring it’s totally submerged, until a knife can easily pierce through (1-1½ hours).
02   For spiced oil, dry-roast spices and chilli until fragrant (2-3 minutes). Combine in a large saucepan with remaining ingredients and warm over medium heat to 50C.
03   Carefully remove octopus from liquid, transfer to spiced oil, stand for 1 hour, then refrigerate in the oil until required. It will keep for 2 days in an airtight container.
04   For smoked butter and almonds, preheat oven to 150C and heat a charcoal barbecue to medium heat. Place soaked hickory chips over hot coals, put butter in a small heatproof dish, place in a larger flameproof tray of ice and place on the barbecue. Spread almonds in a separate flameproof dish alongside. Close the lid and barbecue until lightly smoked (10-15 minutes), taking care not to let the butter melt, adding more ice if necessary. Transfer butter to an airtight container and refrigerate until chilled (2 hours). Meanwhile, place smoked almonds in the oven on a baking tray lined with baking paper and roast until browned (8-10 minutes). Set aside.
05   For chilli sauce, heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, add shallots and garlic and sauté, stirring occasionally until translucent and tender (10-12 minutes). Add harissa, then passata and wine and simmer until most of the liquid evaporates (3-6 minutes). Add fish stock and cook until mixture is a thick sauce consistency (2-3 minutes). Remove from heat, gradually whisk in smoked butter, add chilli, ras el hanout, lime juice and smoked almonds (reserve a few for garnish) and keep warm.
06   Drain octopus tentacles and grill over coals until the skin is well browned and slightly crisp (6-8 minutes). Serve topped with sauce, strawberries, shiso leaves, chilli and almonds.

Note Harissa, a north African chilli paste, is available from select grocers and delicatessens. Ras el hanout, a Moroccan spice blend, is available at Herbie's Spices.

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