Octopus slowly cooked until it is meltingly tender is wonderful to eat and its long, languid tentacles have an extraordinary appearance on the plate. Scattered with black olives and capers, this dish really comes into its own. Octopus is the one thing I suggest you buy frozen: the extreme temperature of the cold tenderises the flesh and prevents it from becoming tough.
1 octopus weighing about 2kg/4lb
1 small bunch of thyme
1 small bunch of parsley
2 fresh bay leaves
15 whole peppercorns
350ml/12fl oz dry white wine
1 litre/13/4 pints water
100ml/31/2fl oz olive oil
11/2 tbsp capers, well rinsed
20 black olives
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Make sure the octopus is defrosted and rinse well under running water. Remove its beak – you will find this at the centre of its head; it will pop out easily. Boil a large pot of water; once boiling, plunge the octopus in and cook until the water returns to the boil. Remove and lay on a baking tray large enough to hold all the ingredients.
Scatter over the thyme, parsley, bay and peppercorns. Pour in the wine, water and oil. Cover securely with foil and place on the middle shelf of the oven. Cook for an hour-and-a-half. Scatter over the capers and olives, season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool to room temperature.
700g/25oz little roseval potatoes, sliced
A little extra-virgin olive oil to dress
The juice of 1 lemon
1 small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
1 bunch of cima di rapa or spinach
Rinse the potatoes well, slice into eighth-of-an-inch rounds and place in a saucepan with cold water and a generous pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, then simmer until tender enough to pierce with a knife. Remove and drain. Dress while hot with the oil, lemon, parsley salt and pepper.
Rinse the spinach or cima leaves well, then boil a well-salted pan of water, add the leaves and cook for a minute for spinach, or a little longer if you are using cima. Drain and toss through the potatoes.
To serve, divide the octopus among four plates, spooning a little of the cooking liquid over as you do so. Arrange the vegetables alongside.