European Culinary Connections | Inky Fish


For reasons only the gods can explain, octopus fresh from the sea cooked over a gentle heat in onions, olive oil, tomatoes and wine, seasoned with herbs and spices, is the perfect culinary marriage of Mediterranean flavours.

This Cretan version of octopus stew is such a dish.

Htapódi Stifádo – 1

300 ml wine/water 
50 ml wine vinegar
4 bay leaves
1 kg octopus
1 kg onions, whole small
750 g tomatoes
100 ml olive oil
50 ml white wine
25 ml wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic, crushed
30 g oregano
25 g black pepper, freshly ground
6 peppercorns
4 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
Salt, pinch

Marinade octopus whole in 300ml wine/water and 50ml wine vinegar for four hours, strain, cut into large pieces. Simmer pieces in the marinade liquid for 15 minutes, strain, leave to dry.

In a large wide frying pan, sauté onions in five tablespoons of the oil until they begin to brown, remove.

Add remaining oil, sauté octopus for ten minutes, until the juices from the fish have evaporated.

Deglaze with vinegar and wine, boil for three minutes.

Return onions, stir, add herbs and spices, seasonings and tomatoes, reduce heat and simmer over a low heat for 75 minutes.

Htapódi Stifádo – 2

1 kg octopus, cut into small pieces
1 kg onions
250 ml olive oil
50 ml water
50 ml wine vinegar
3 garlic cloves
3 bay leaves
1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground

Sauté onion in oil for ten minutes, add octopus, cover and simmer over a low heat for 45 minutes.

Add bay leaves, garlic and pepper, then vinegar and water. Simmer for 30 minutes, longer if necessary until octopus is tender.

Ktapódi – 1

1 kg octopus, cut into small pieces
500 g large macaroni
500 ml water, hot
450 g tomatoes, chopped
250 ml olive oil
250 g onions, chopped
100 ml white wine
30 g parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
Salt, pinch
Pepper, pinch

Sauté onion in oil in a wide deep frying pan.

Turn heat high, fry octopus until its juices have evaporated.

Deglaze pan with wine, add tomatoes, hot water, seasonings, cover and simmer until the octopus is tender, 30 minutes.

Add macaroni, extra water if necessary, cook until al dente.

Garnish with parsley and black pepper.

Ktapódi – 2

Grilled octopus is a delicacy throughout the Aegean and Mediterranean, simply but delicately constructed. The secret is in the method, the octopus is slow cooked in its own juices.

1 kg octopus, whole
Olive oil, for basting
Vinegar, for dressing
Oregano, for dressing
Salt, pinch
Pepper, pinch

Sauté octopus in a heavy-based saucepan over a low heat, until it absorbs its own liquid.

Preheat grill or charcoal fire.

Brush octopus with oil, season, grill until tender, turning several times.

Cut into thick slices.

Serve dressed with a drizzle of oil and vinegar, and a sprinkling of fresh oregano, bread to mop the juices.


Alive with all the fish of the sea, this stew is a grand loud operata. Clams, cod, conger, cuttlefish, langoustines, lobsters, monkfish, mussels, prawns, shrimp, squid – they all play a part.

Most of the time it is no more than a rehearsal with bit part players.

This is a small zarzuela with prawns, shrimp and squid, with all the flavourings.

500 g prawns
500 g calamari/cuttlefish, cut into small pieces
300 g tomatoes, chopped
250 g shrimp
250 ml fish stock
250 ml white wine
125 g onions, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 lemon, juice
60 g garlic, crushed
60 ml olive oil
50 g almonds, coarse chopped
50 g Serrano ham/bacon, cubed
25 g cilantro/coriander leaves
4 pimentos/piri piri chillies
1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
Salt, pinch
Saffron, pinch
Thyme, pinch

Make a stock with shellfish heads and skins, about 20 minutes, strain.

In a wide deep frying pan sauté bacon, garlic and onion in two tablespoons of oil for five minutes over a high heat, add almonds, pimentos, red pepper and tomatoes, cook into a paste with no visible liquid.

Add thyme, saffron and seasonings.

Add remaining oil, wine and lemon juice and bring to the boil.

Reduce heat to low, add prawns and squid, and enough of the stock to bring the level of the liquid above the fish.

Cover and cook for five minutes.

Stir in shrimp, add cilantro, cook for three minutes.

Serve with crusty white bread.