Red wine & star anise-braised octopus with coriander dressing

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Appears in

Fusion: A Culinary Journey


By Peter Gordon

Published 2010

  • About

My first-ever experience of eating octopus almost ensured I’d never eat it again. Our family was staying at Cape Palliser, which is at the bottom of the North Island of New Zealand. We’d go there several times a year, usually staying in an old woolshed that friends of my Dad owned. The woolshed would be filled with bales of wool, or with bales of agar seaweed - harvested in non wool-shearing months as a way to supplement the farmer’s income. Out on the beach were Antarctic fur seals and penguins and the waters were teeming with paua (black abalone), crayfish and kina (sea urchins). It was because of the crayfish we came, though, as Dad was a keen Cray fisherman. One fateful day, however, Dad caught an octopus in one of the pots and he decided to cook it for dinner as a treat. He simply threw it on the barbecue and grilled it for a short time. It was absolutely disgusting and the taste remained in my mouth for ages. Since then I’ve learnt to love eating this strange sea creature. In Turkey and Greece, it is often served simply drizzled with olive oil and lemon after being slowly braised. In this dish I give it a bit of an Asian make-over, and it is truly delicious! In Japan and Hong Kong, you can often buy just one tentacle from the fish markets. If you can only find them frozen don’t worry - it won’t affect the final result. If you can only find baby octopus, then you’ll only need to cook them for around 40 minutes.


For the octopus

  • 1x 1.2-1.5 kg octopus
  • 300 ml red wine (use one with low tannins)
  • 100 ml soy sauce
  • 6 star anise
  • 50 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp flaky salt
  • 300 ml water

Coriander dressing

  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 shallot, peeled and sliced
  • a small handful of parsley
  • a handful of coriander, leaves, stems and roots, if possible
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 60 ml vegetable salad oil
  • ½ tsp flaky salt
  • 50 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon


Preheat oven to 170°C. Prepare your octopus. Cut the head off beneath the eyes and then cut it in half lengthways, removing the eyes and the inside of the head. Using a sharp knife, or scissors, separate the tentacles from each other, and discard the shell-like beak (the mouth) and the mouth area. Place the octopus along with all the other ingredients into a large ovenproof pot and bring to the boil. Alternatively, bring the liquids to the boil and pour over the octopus in a ceramic or stainless steel deep-sided roasting dish. The octopus should be covered with liquid; if it isn’t, top it up with extra water. Place a sheet of baking parchment on top of the liquid, then seal the dish really tightly with aluminium foil or a lid and bake in the centre of the oven for 1¾ hours. Take it out and leave to cool. At this point it’s ready to be eaten, but it will also be delicious served cold.

For the coriander dressing, using a stick blender or bar blender, blitz everything except the extra virgin olive oil and the lemon juice together until smooth. Stir in the olive oil and then the lemon juice and taste for seasoning.

To Serve

One tentacle or less per person with some of the dressing is all that’s needed. You can also slice it and scatter over watercress, quartered cherry tomatoes and pitted olives for a lovely salad.