Octopus and squid are everyday items on Spanish menus and both are cooked widely at home, too. Fresh whole octopuses are available from the Auckland Fish Market but pre-frozen, pre-prepared octopus - the whole tentacles or the sliced meat - can be found at good Asian food stores. Pre-freezing helps with the tenderisation process so is only a good thing where octopus and squid are concerned.
If you want to prepare your own whole, fresh octopus, you will need to clean out the head (should you intend not wasting that part), washing away the ink and removing the beak. Then you will need to cut off the tentacles.
Chef Mark Dronjak, who teaches classes at the market's seafood school, says tenderising is the key to preparing octopus and to do that he recommends boiling the whole cleaned tentacles and head, cut into smaller pieces, in a pot on a fast simmer for an hour. Mark uses a good amount of iodised flaky sea salt in the water, lemon halves to flavour and 1/2 cup of white vinegar to help bleach the flesh, along with a couple of bay leaves. After simmering, rinse in cold water to refresh, coating your hands in salt and working over the flesh to remove any traces of skin or any serrated calcium rings still adhering to the tentacles.
A good sized octopus will feed between four and eight people. Lay it out on a board after boiling and cleaning and then cut accordingly. Mark cuts the head 'Asian style' on an angle to be barbecued or used in pasta dishes. The tentacles can be cut or used whole.Frozen octopus, which has been pre-prepared, can be cut while still frozen with a sharp knife.Whether bought pre-frozen or boiled from fresh, the large tentacles are great barbecued.
"I dry them off and then, for Spanish flavours, coat them with a mix of Spanish olive oil, smoked paprika, garlic, a few chilli flakes, a little rosemary and sage, lemon zest and juice. The smoked paprika helps bind the flavours. Roll the tentacles in there and let it sit for 15-20 minutes, then barbecue."