A few years ago I had a job working from home for a food research company. I would go into the office about once a week to “check in” with my boss, which amounted to us sitting across a desk from eachother, tick tacking on our computers and looking forward to having lunch together. Much of the time spent with Boss consisted of him reminiscing about his childhood in Cyprus. I learned many interesting facts about his homeland, which mostly centered around food (as that was the epicenter of our orbits).
Fun facts about Cyprus:
– It is so warm in Cyprus that they can harvest almonds twice a year there
– They used to distill rosewater from the gorgeous roses that grew along the road
– He lived in a really small village and had to walk down a mountain everyday to go to school (which meant walking up a mountain everyday to go home)
– The secret to living longer is eating very little, very slowly, as evidenced by an older relative who lived by this philosophy
– It hardly snows in Cyprus, and if it does it melts by the afternoon except in the mountains
– The local population is grossly outnumbered by tourists
– If I ever want to visit I can meet up with Boss’ sister who lives there (!!!!!)
As Cyprus’ history is deeply intertwined with its Grecian neighbour, so is its food. Boss had a habit of repeating himself, especially when it came to recipes he liked. One dish was Greek octopus stew, which he raved about due to its ability to deliver deliciousness with marvellous simplicity: “Octopus, red wine, tomatoes, onion.” In his consistency, he made it for a staff potluck. Standing next to the potato salad drowning in mayonnaise and the veggie sticks lonely without ranch dip, the steaming dark red concoction seemed utterly out of place: its somber brooding tempted to drown your insides with its profundity, while its distant companions on the table stared blankly back. I recall that much of it was left over by the end, which pained me because I knew how much he loved his octopus stew and brought it to be shared. In hindsight, I think Boss probably was quite pleased about getting to take it home and enjoy it himself.
Last week I discovered some frozen baby octopus at the supermarket, and bought it with no cooking plan in mind. I figured that something would dawn on me, and as my mind rifled through its folders of stored away recipes, those days of eating cafeteria tuna sandwiches while learning about Cyprus’ almond harvest patterns returned to me. Funny that.
Here is my homage to Boss’ octopus stew. My version goes well with white kidney beans and toast.
1 onion, diced
1-2 kg baby octopus, thawed and cleaned, cut into pieces
1 large tin of diced tomatoes
a few tbsp of tomato paste
1 bottle red wine (1 cup in the stew, the rest to be drunk at your leisure)
Cook onion in olive oil over medium heat in a saucepan until slightly soft. Throw in everything else in except the parsley. Bring to a boil and then slap on the lid. Let it simmer for about an hour until the octopus is tender. Add more wine if it seems to get dry. Just before serving, throw in some diced parsley and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
Boss would say to eat slowly, and not too much.