At least 1¼ hours ahead of serving: put to heat a large pan of heavily salted water (think saline, think sea water).
Clean the tentacles by putting them in a large bowl, coating them liberally with coarse salt and rubbing it in for 5 minutes. It is best to wear rubber gloves for this task. Rinse thoroughly.
When the water is boiling rapidly, holding with tongs, dip a tentacle into it for 20 seconds. Remove, then dunk it back in again for a further 20 seconds. Repeat the process a third time and put it into a pottery or glass dish. The tentacle will curl up during this blanching process. Blanch the other tentacles in the same way and add them to the dish. This three-dip technique is called ‘scaring’ the octopus and is said to tenderize it more than if you just stuck it in the boiling liquid and left it there for the whole minute.
If using, shred the lime leaf finely. Deseed and finely chop the chilli. Stir these in with the octopus. Juice the lemons and pour this over. Sprinkle with a little salt and leave to marinate for at least 1 hour at room temperature, turning frequently. It will keep, cling wrapped and refrigerated, for up to a week - and indeed benefits from such lengthy marinating.
Cut the tentacles at an angle into scalloped 1 cm/½ in slices, leaving the curled tips intact. Arrange on a serving dish, pour over the marinade and dress with the extra-virgin olive oil.
Pretend a Japanese visitor to the Mediterranean brought some Kikkoman soy sauce along and, out of deference to him, add a few drops to complete the dressing. Finish the presentation with some snipped chives.
© 1995 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.