Seafood was a big draw for us when we came to the Dalmatian coast. Luckily, our host in Vir, Zlatko, is just as enthusiastic about it as we are and offered up his recipe for Octopus Peka. Frank was keen to learn how to use the beautiful wood-fired oven in the garden, so he played chef while I took notes.
This is a one-pot slow-cooked dish and takes about 4-6 hours to cook (depending on how caramelised you like your vegetables). Zlatko is also keen to emphasise that the Octopus in this dish can be substituted with any other meat for a completely different density and tastes – he particularly recommends lamb or chicken!
Here, the dish has been cooked in a Peka, which is a cast iron dish with a bell-like domed lid. The Peka is placed in an outside wood-fired oven, though I suspect the recepie would also work in an oven on a consistent heat (between 160-180 degrees).
2kg Octopus (or meat of your choice)
2kg Potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
1kg Carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
4-6 Large onions, peeled and chopped into quarters
4 tbsp of good quality olive-oil
Liberally applied glug of white wine (red if using for red meat)
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin seeds
1 tsp granulated garlic
1-2 tsp of fine sea salt
- Light your fire, then leave to reduce to embers
- While you are waiting, mix all herbs and spices together and prepare your vegetables
- Put all of your meat and vegetables into one dish, drizzle with the olive oil and mix to ensure everything is well coated.
- Add all of your herbs and spices and mix again so that they’re evenly distributed.
- Place in the Peka with the lid on and leave to sit for half an hour.
- Place the Peka into the oven. Stack the embers around and on top of it, leaving some to one side to replace any that go out while cooking.
- Check after 30 minutes to see if you can smell the aroma of the meat cooking forcing it’s way out of the pot (Zlatko is quite emphatic here about not lifting the lid). Once you can smell it, leave for another 30 mins before checking by lifting the lid.
- Thereafter, check on the dish every 30 minutes. Stir – only if you have to – to prevent sticking.
- Repeat until you are satisfied that the dish is cooked to your liking!
- Serve with fresh bread (to dip in the gravy) and salad!
The tentacles might stress some people out with the octopus, but this was absolutely delicious – even the kids loved it! Very much looking forward to recreating it with lamb or beef in the near future…
All credit for the recipe goes to Zlatko!