SAUTEED OCTOPUS AND CALAMARI with Jamon Iberico, Roasted Artichoke Salsa Verde, Wild Red Rice and Beans

SAUTEED OCTOPUS AND CALAMARI with Jamon Iberico, Roasted Artichoke Salsa Verde, Wild Red Rice and Beans
July 1, 2020 Sarah

Dish created by STEPHEN LA ROSA,

Chief Culinary Officer,

Mediterranean Culinary Academy,

Valletta, Malta,

for Food Stories MT.


Words: Stephen La Rosa. When The White Sheep got in touch with me to collaborate with them, I couldn’t have been more enthusiastic. I’ve spent a portion of my career cooking in Michelin starred restaurants in New York, San Francisco and London. One of the things I miss most from that chapter, is working with extremely high quality products. So when I was told that I could help myself to their shelves and saw so many of the ingredients I fondly remembered cooking with during that time, I felt like a kid in a candy-store.

Because of my enthusiasm to be able to play with these ingredients, the dish ended up with quite a few components but at its core it is a showcase of the beautiful pairing of Iberico ham and sauteed seafood served over a flavour-packed take on rice and beans.

For the Octopus and Calamari

1kg octopus
2 medium sized calamari, cleaned
1 head of onion, quartered
1 bulb of fennel, quartered
1 lemon, halved
1 head of garlic, halved
1 dried chili

In a large pot, bring 3-4 litres of water up to the boil and add the onion, fennel, lemon, garlic, chili and 2 tablespoons of salt.

Grab the octopus by the head, dip the tentacles into the water for 2 seconds and remove them. Repeat the process 3-4 times. This step is optional but will make the tentacles curl up beautifully. Submerge the octopus fully.

Allow the octopus to cook at a rolling boil for 45 minutes to an hour. Check if the octopus is cooked or not by cutting into the thickest piece and, either tasting, or if your knife goes in with little resistance.

Once the octopus is cooked, remove it from the water and place on a tray to cool to room temperature.

Strain the octopus broth using a sieve or colander and save all the delicious broth.

Once cooled, portion the octopus by cutting around the beak in the centre and splitting into 8 individual tentacles.

For the calamari, ask your fish monger to clean the body for you or do it yourself by removing the innards found inside the tube as well as removing the beak and the upper half of the head. Split open the tube and lay it out flat with the inside of the tube facing up. Cut a shallow crosshatch at a 45 degree angle without piercing the flesh. Portion into 3 pieces. Store the octopus and the calamari in the coldest section of your fridge until ready to cook.

For the rice and beans

150g cannellini beans
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 red pepper
1 large onion
3 cloves of garlic
Salt, olive oil and chili flake taste

Soak the beans overnight in 1 litre of water with 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda dissolved into it.

The next day, when ready to cook, drain the beans from their liquid and simmer in octopus broth for 45 minutes to an hour, tasting throughout until the beans are tender, adding more water to the broth if it is becoming too reduced and salty as the beans cook.

The rice can be cooked at the same time, again simply boiled in the octopus broth for 45 minutes to an hour. When both are cooked, strain each from their liquid and put them into the same pot.

While these are both cooking, rub a red pepper lightly in olive oil and place in an oven set to 250C for 30 minutes or until completely charred. Remove from the oven and place into a container, covered with a lid for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove the peel, seeds and stem from the red pepper and chop the flesh into small dice.

While these are cooking, heat up a sauté pan over medium heat and add a tablespoon of Iberico fat. To this, add the onion and start caramelising, reducing the heat to low if things are cooking too quickly. Cook for 20-30 minutes or until well caramelised. Add the chopped anchovies along with the 3 cloves of minced garlic to the centre of the pan, add more iberico fat and cook into a paste.

Add 1 tbsp of smoked paprika and the chopped red pepper. Stir to combine, cook for 2 minutes before adding to the rice and beans.

Stir to combine, adding a few tablespoons of octopus broth. When read to serve, heat up the rice and beans until most of the broth is dissolved and the mixture has a creamier texture.


For the Salsa Verde

One large handful each of parsley and mint, chopped
The zest from a lemon, and juice to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Optionally, diced fresh chili to taste
BRINDISA IBERICO FAT or extra virgin olive oil as needed

Simply grind the anchovies, herbs and artichokes together in a pestle and mortar or finely chop each. Season to taste with the zest from a lemon and enough lemon juice, salt and either iberico fat or olive oil. Optionally, but highly recommended, you can add some finely minced fresh chili or some dried chili flakes if you prefer a little bit of heat.

To finish

Reserved octopus, calamari, rice and beans
8 fatty slices of JAMON IBERICO
Mint leaves
Salt, BRINDISA IBERICO FAT and lemon juice, to taste

The iberico is absolute perfection torn into pieces and added raw to the dish but for a little bit of texture I placed a few slices onto a baking tray lined with baking paper, placed them into an oven set to 160C and baked for 15 minutes until the ham was crisp. This is to add a little bit more texture to the dish, but entirely optional. Be sure to reserve all the rendered fat from the cooking process to cook with, you don’t want to be throwing away liquid gold!

Slowly warm up your rice and beans over medium heat until they warmed through. Keep hot off the heat, covered with a lid.

Place a heavy bottomed pan over high heat and add a tablespoon of Iberico fat. Get some nice colour on the flat sides of the artichoke hearts and remove from the pan, draining the residual oil over some paper kitchen towel.

Sear the octopus tentacles well on both sides for about a minute or until lightly coloured. Once cooked, remove from the pan and toss to coat in a few tablespoons of salsa verde.

Sear both sides of the calamari in a similar fashion and move to your chopping board once cooked. Cut into 2cm strips which should curl up nicely and toss with the octopus and the salsa verde.

To serve, place down a few spoonfuls of the rice and beans, a few even smaller spoonfuls of the salsa verde and cover with your beautifully cooked and seasoned seafood. Garnish with the Iberico ham, roasted artichoke hearts and mint leaves.