Nelson spent his teenage years on the small island of Pico in the Azores–one of nine small Portugueses islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, over 1,300 kilometers west of continental Portugal. He looks back at those years fondly. Nelson maintains close ties to the island, the culture of the fishing village where he lived, and the people.
Eating seafood or fish in this village was a pleasure, and a regular occurrance. Many meals were prepared with fish and seafood that was caught on the day–talk about fresh! In addition to family, friends and the sound of the ocean, Nelson says he really misses the quality of foods prepared by his mom and by other local home cooks during festivals around the Island (and there were many).
One of Nelson’s favourite dishes is octopus stew (polvo guisado). He remembers soaking every last drop of the rich sauce from his plate with locally baked bread. This stew is wonderful with crusty bread for dipping the delicious sauce. Common sides are potatoes cooked right in the stew or a simple butter rice.
A few years ago, Nelson’s mom gave him one of his favourite gifts ever–a small notebook with her own recipes of many of his favourite meals. This little hand-written treasure is more special to him than any monatary gift she could have given him–more precious than gold. This notebook and the traditional and memorable meals he makes from it have kept him connected to his roots, his family, and the beautiful volcanic island of Pico. Through this blog, we plan to create and capture pics of many of the recipes from Nelson’s notebook. We hope others will give the recipes a try and discover something special, like we have.
- 3 Lbs large octopus cut in large pieces (it will shrink a lot during cooking)
- 4 Tbs of quality olive oil
- 1 medium cooking onion chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 small can of tomato paste (5.5 fl oz)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 large bay leaf
- 1 cup of good white wine
- 1 tsp salt
- 1½ tsp tabasco or other hot sauce (this gives it a small touch of heat, adjust accordingly)
- 3 small sprigs of parsley chopped coarse
- In a large pot, heat up the olive oil. Add the onions, sauté until they start becoming translucent and add the garlic. Sauté for another two minutes.
- Add the tomato paste, cinnamon stick, bay leaf and cup of wine. Stir until the tomato paste is completely dissolved. Now add the salt and tabasco. The sauce will look thick and like it doesn't have enough water. This is expected. Do not add water.
- Add the chopped octopus to the pot and mix well. As soon as the mix starts to bubble, decrease the temperature to medium or a touch lower and let simmer for 1 hour.
- Take the lid off the pot and taste the sauce and octopus. Add additional salt if needed. If the octopus feels a little tough, cover the pot and cook a bit longer until the octopus is tender.
- You can serve the octopus with crusty bread, potatoes or rice. We hope you enjoy this dish as much as Nelson has over the years.