Octopus

Octopus aegina (Baby Octopus)
Octopus tetricus (Sydney Octopus)
Octopus australia (Southern Octopus)
Octopus maorum (Maori Octopus)
Octopus pallidus (Pale Octopus)
Octopus graptus (Scribbled Night Octopus)

Other names: Hammer octopus, brown octopus (Southern); pink octopus, white octopus (Pale).

Family: Octopodidae (octopuses).

Description:

Available wild-caught, these marine dwelling cephalopods are found right around the Australian coast, from shallow tidal pools to depths of over 3,000m, though generally caught closer inshore among seagrass and on muddy, sandy or reefy bottoms at less than 200m on the continental shelf. They are mostly solitary, living in holes, under rocks or burrowing into the sea bottom. Mainly caught off south-eastern Australia, from southern Queensland to the Great Australian Bight, often as bycatch, using trawls, dredges, pots and nets; one species is trapped and taken as bycatch of the WA Rocklobster fishery (as they are a major predator of Rocklobsters).

Season: Available year round.

Size and Weight: Commonly up to 2kg and 80cm, but can grow to 9kg and 250cm.

Price: Medium priced.

Relations:

Related to Squids, Calamari and Cuttlefish in that they are all cephalopods. They differ from them in that, while they all have 8 arms, Octopuses lack the 2 longer tentacles, side fins and internal shells (quill or cuttlebone) of the others; Octopuses’ heads (mantles) also tend to be rounder.

To Buy:

When purchasing fresh whole Octopus look for intact bright skin, intact head and arms, and a pleasant fresh sea smell.

To Store:

Make sure Octopus is gutted and cleaned thoroughly. Wrap in plastic wrap or place in an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months below -18ºC.

To Cook:

To clean whole Octopus: lay Octopus flat on a chopping board, slice either side of the eyes and discard them, push beak (mouth) out from between the arms. Remove and discard the head contents (try not to break the ink sac as the ink stains) and rinse the head or wipe clean with a clean cloth. Skin can be peeled off or left on, it will turn a dark purple as it cooks. Cut head and legs into suitable pieces depending on size and cooking method. Average yield is 90%. It has a mild flavour, medium oiliness, and is dry with a firm texture, denser than Squids, Calamari and Cuttlefish. The flesh is translucent when raw and white when cooked.

Cooking Methods:

Deep-fry, pan-fry, stir-fry, bake, braise, grill, barbecue, smoke, raw (sashimi). To be tender, Octopus must be cooked very quickly over high heat or very slowly over low heat. It is suitable for a wide variety of preparations and responds well to being marinated to both tenderise and flavour it. To tenderise before char-grilling or other quick cooking methods, place in a bowl and cover with boiling water, allow to stand for 30 seconds to 1 minute, depending on size of Octopus, then drain and rinse under cold water. Cooked marinated Octopus makes a good addition to salads and antipasto platters.

Goes well with:

Capsicum, chilli, fresh herbs (such as marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley), garlic, green onions, lemon, lime, olive oil, tomato.

Alternatives:

Squids, Calamari and Cuttlefish.

Imports:

Baby Octopus is imported frozen from South East Asia. Common Octopus (O.vulgaricus) is imported from South Africa and Spain, and North Pacific Giant Octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini), often in the form of frozen red arms used for sushi, from Japan. Some species are also imported from New Zealand.

Recipes:

Barbecued Chilli Octopus with Red Capsicum & Tzatziki >
Warm Salad of Barbecued Octopus, Zucchini & Marinated Fennel > 
Deep-Fried Salt & Pepper Octopus > 
Braised Octopus with Tomato & Olives >