Octopus barbecue

Words: Anthony Power   Photography: Steve Ryan

Octopus barbecue

Fun with summer barbecue


I love Indian summers in London. Who doesn’t? Long evenings after months of cold and dark, girls in bikinis in local parks, pubs spilling out onto the roads. What I love most though are the barbeques with friends, usually announced around midday on weekends – the host having woken, had breakfast and realised that there are still bluebird skies and sunshine to be made the most of. A group text message gets the word out far and wide and, if your friends are anything like mine, most arrive with a bag of meat and a bag of beer.

When Steve and his housemates put the word out for another epic afternoon we answered the call. In the weeks before we had been talking about how every barbeque has its staples – sausages, potato salad, burgers, the odd steak. We decided that if we were going to write about a barbeque then we needed to do something a little different. So we thought we would try some things you didn’t know you could BBQ.

So first thing that came to my mind was a whole octopus. Steve had mentioned he has a mate who barbeques whole fish wrapped in wet newspaper. We had also recently foraged for some clams and cooked them on the beach over an open fire so we were keen to give them a try in the backyard. Challenge accepted.

Now most people I’m sure know full well you can barbeque an octopus, it is a Mediterranean delicacy and anyone who has been to Greece will have seen octopi hanging outside restaurants, their tentacles drying in the sea breeze. Generally speaking, octopus needs to be cooked before it can be barbequed; usually it is boiled for about an hour before grilling otherwise it is rendered rubbery and inedible. However, in Greece you can often see fishermen beating the octopus against the rocks on the shore to tenderise it – and it is this method that made my ears prick up. To be honest I liked the idea of whipping a whole octopus against the side of the house in front of guests before throwing the beast on the grill. After some extensive research we settled on another method of tenderising the octopus. Away from London with my real job, my trusty partner in crime Steve Ryan stepped up and the day before the feast, sourced the fish and the whole octopus from Steve Hatt and on the way home, purchased a 12oz hammer.

I am told that Steve took the hammer to the cephalopod with gusto and gave it a right seeing to. After pounding the octopus for a solid 15 minutes, Steve marinated it overnight in a mix of olive oil and vinegar. Nice thinking Steve.

The next day we all converged in Hackney and got stuck straight into the task at hand. Alex arrived armed with some other ingredients we were keen to give some charcoal attention to; watermelon, Romaine lettuce, Caprese salad skewers. Steve’s friend Neil arrived and showed us his method for barbequed fish. Wrap the cleaned, scaled and seasoned fish in 5 or 6 sheets of newspaper and wet thoroughly. Chuck it on a medium barbeque and when the paper has dried and starting to catch fire, the fish is cooked. For those that love to eat fish but are too scared to grill it in fear of it sticking to the griddle, it doesn’t get much easier than this.