Nov 28, 2016

How to make octopus Maltese style

Malta is an island in the Mediterranean so seafood it very popular.
 One day John and I had lunch at La Nostra Padrona, a seaside restaurant in the picturesque fishing town of Marsaxlokk. The weather was beautiful – perfect for dining alfresco. Malta can be very hot in the summer so seaside dining,
where it is usually cooler, is very popular. It was busy when we were there but there were many restaurants to choose from.  Most restaurants also have indoor dining. John was able to pick from the “catch of the day” while I had a great salad. Our lunch was excellent and ended with a typical dessert – imgaret a deep-fried date pastry served with ice cream. I loved walking along the waterfront where there were vendors selling a variety of goods including many locally made items.  The Maltese fishing boats are very colorful as they bobbed in the bay. 

One day we scheduled a ‘hotel day’ - reading around the pool,
enjoying the spa and learning how to make a traditional Maltese recipe. Ramla’s Executive Head Chef Christian Borg showed us how to make Qarnit Moqli. Chef Borg said Maltese cooking is simple, colorful, and tasty.   He explained further that many countries invaded Malta over the years so many recipes are a mix of Italian and Arabic cuisine.  
Qarnit Mogli is usually served as a starter but we found it was enough for a lunch.  John, the seafood lover, declared it excellent.  I am not a lover of seafood but, of course, I tried it.  The flavor was wonderful. I knew it would be from the aroma when it was cooking; however, I found the octopus a little too chewy to my liking. I really appreciate it when a hotel’s chef will take the time to share his expertise. I think they appreciate it when someone shows an interest in their work which often goes unacknowledged.  

Qarnit Moqli
2 whole medium-sized octopuses
1 medium fresh chili, diced (amount used depends on how hot you want it)
1 lemon
1tbsp black pepper corns
6 bay leaves
10 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 small red onion, diced
2 – 4 sprigs of fresh mint 
2 – 4 sprigs of fresh basil 
10 cherry tomatoes cut in half
1tbsp sun-dried tomatoes, diced
½ cup white wine
1tbsp capers 
1tbsp pitted black olives, roughly chopped
Freshly ground pepper as desired
Extra virgin olive oil as desired 
Crusty white loaf (Hobz tal-malthi) or bread bowls

Boil the octopus together with half the chili, half the lemon, black
pepper corns, bay leaves, and half of the garlic. Let it boil gently until the octopus is nice and tender (approximately 40minutes).
When the octopus is ready separate the tentacles from the head and cut them in half. Remove the beak. Cut the head into three thick slices.
In a frying pan add a dash of olive oil, when warm  add the onions until it starts to become soft then add the rest of the garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and chilies.  Add the octopus and white wine. Cook over medium heat until it is reduced by half. Add the capers (rinse these before adding to the pan) and the olives and let them cook slowly for about 5 minutes.  Finish with a squeeze of lemon, freshly ground black pepper, and more olive oil. Scoop out the center of a bread bowl and fill with octopus mixture. Garnish and serve.