Polpo & Potato Hash

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Appears in

Food of the Sun: A Fresh Look at Mediterranean Cooking

Food of the Sun

By Alastair Little and Richard Whittington

Published 1995

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Octopus may be barely cooked or well cooked. In this treatment the octopus is simmered in a lemon-acidulated court-bouillon until tender, then cut into bitesized pieces and tossed with cubes of spiced potato, onion and garlic - a hash with a difference.

Gnarled Mediterranean fishermen give the creatures a terrible beating on the rocks to tenderize the rubbery brutes prior to taking them to the markets. This is a favourite photograph for food books. Note that wherever the fishermen come from -Greece, Spain, you name it - they are always gnarled. Perhaps there is a modelling agency which specializes in this esoteric area. ‘I need a shot of a fisherman battering an octopus on the rocks. He must look archetypal and weather-beaten, sort of craggy-faced. We will supply the loose-knitted navy-blue jumper, but he must be gnarled.’ There is a pause as the agent checks availability. ‘We have Julio or Spiros, depending on ethnic preference. They are very experienced and have appeared in illustrated food books all over the world. And they are both extensively gnarled.’


  • 450 g/1 lb octopus tentacles
  • 450 g/1 lb potatoes
  • 450 g/1 lb onions
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 chillies
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • salt and pepper

For the Lemon Court Bouillon

  • 1 onion
  • 2 celery stalks
  • bunch of parsley
  • 3 lemons
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp salt



The octopus and court-bouillon can be prepared the day before.

Make the court-bouillon: coarsely chop the onion and celery. Destalk the parsley, reserving the stalks, and chop the leaves. Juice the lemons.

Put the onion, celery, parsley stalks, lemon juice and all the other court-bouillon ingredients in 2.25 litres/2 qt of cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain into another pan.

Bring the strained cooking liquid to a simmer. Put in the tentacles and poach for 90 minutes. Taste a piece: if it is not tender, continue cooking until it is. Turn off the heat and leave to cool in the courtbouillon.

Peel the potatoes and cut into large dice.


Parboil the potatoes in a large pan of boiling salted water for 10 minutes, then strain through a colander.

While they are cooling, peel and dice the onions and garlic. Destalk and deseed the chillies and cut into julienne strips.

Fry the onion and garlic in half the olive oil until translucent. Then add the chillies and cook for a minute. Remove and reserve.

Cut the tentacles into bite-sized pieces, pulling away the skin and discarding it.

Put some more oil in the pan, add the potatoes and cook over a medium heat, tossing until they start to brown. Return the onions and garlic to the pan, scatter over the paprika and turmeric and toss and turn for 2—3 minutes.

Add the octopus pieces, season, stir and warm through.


Serve scattered with chopped parsley.

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