Hisham Assaad’s Grilled Octopus With Coriander & Moghrabieh Salad

Twice-cook your octopus, first to tenderise then to char. Photo / Supplied

Despite being a port city in a Mediterranean country, seafood is not the first thing you might think of when considering Beiruti or Lebanese cuisine.

Mostly this is because, as I have mentioned before, we tend to let the star ingredient shine by itself rather than dress it up.

However, a few restaurants have started to work with seafood and develop new recipes.

This recipe is a combination of two dishes I’ve tried in Baron, a hip and popular restaurant in Mar Mikhael that uses local ingredients in new ways, with modern cooking techniques and creative presentation.

The octopus is twice cooked – the first time to cook it through and tenderise it; the second to get the char and nice crispy bits around the edges.

Inspired by the restaurant’s presentation, I’ve used the moghrabieh pearls in a way that people don’t do at home: cold in a salad, rather than in a stew. I’m sure this will offend some traditionalists!


Akhtabout Meshwe w Salatet Moghrabieh

Serves 4

1 kg octopus (1 large or 2-3 small), cleaned

4 bay leaves pared

Zest of 1 lemon1 cup white wine

¼ cup olive oil

2 Tbsp paprika

3 Tbsp pesto

2 Tbsp lemon juice

½ tsp salt

2 Tbsp sherry (or white wine)
For the moghrabieh salad

2 cups cooked moghrabieh/maftoul pearl couscous (giant couscous)

2 ripe tomatoes, deseeded and diced

2 Tbsp pesto½ tsp salt

¼ cup lemon juice
  1. Put the octopus into a stockpot, add the bay leaves, lemon zest, white wine and enough water to cover. Gently bring to a simmer, then cook over a low heat for about 1 hour 20 minutes, depending on the size of the octopus. If using a large octopus, it might take more time; if using 2-3 small ones, it’ll take less. Test by inserting a knife into the fleshy part of the tentacles; if it slides in easily, it is done. Take the pot off the heat and allow the octopus to cool in the water.
  2. Once cooled, separate the tentacles with a knife or kitchen scissors. Place in a bowl and mix with the olive oil, paprika, pesto, lemon juice and salt. Let it marinate for at least 1 hour or overnight in the refrigerator, if possible.
  3. To make the salad, mix the cooked moghrabieh pearls with the tomatoes and the pesto, and season with the salt and lemon juice, to taste. Spread over a serving dish.
  4. When ready to serve, heat a grill pan over a high heat and grill the marinated octopus on both sides until slightly charred. Carefully, pour over the sherry or wine (the alcohol might catch and flame) and let it bubble a bit to deglaze the pan. Serve the grilled octopus on top of the moghrabieh salad.

Recipe extracted from ‘Bayrut: The Cookbook’ by Hisham Assaad, $65, Smith Street Books.

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