I was at the dentist's office last week and stumbled on an article in a food and travel magazine about Greece and Greek food. It was so evocative and the featured dishes, so tempting, I actually contemplated tearing out the pages for, uh, future reference *blush* My 12 year old's appalled expression when he saw me fingering the inner spine of the magazine jolted me back to my senses and thanks to him, I left the office empty handed, with my head held high.

One of those dishes, Oktapodi Krasato (Octopus in Red Wine), stood out heads and shoulders above the rest. It was way beyond my meagre knowledge of Greek cooking which thus far has been restricted to Kotopoulo Lemonato (Garlic and Lemon Chicken), Souvlaki (Grilled Meat Skewers), Spanakopita (Spinach Filo Pie). Baklava (Nut and Honey Filo Pastry), Tzatziki (yoghurt, cucumber and dill dip)  and Greek Salad.

my gratitude to all who magnanimously refrain from gynaecological referencences *cough*

I was fascinated with the idea of cooking shellfish in red wine - something untried and unimagined. I keep telling people that red wine can go with fish and white wine can stand up to meat but found myself flummoxed by what I thought was an unholy culinary marriage and was actually eager to try it out, just to prove to myself that it couldn't possibly be good. Wrong, wrong and WRONG!!!

This is exactly the kind of dish I relish - simple, fuss free, a delicious meal with an ingredients list you can write on a dental clinic queue ticket ..... which is exactly what I did *grin* instead of stealing those pages. Better still, this one challenged my perceptions and proved me wrong. Never have I more happily eaten my own words, or rather, thoughts.

 The sausages,dried chilli and oregano were my own additions and the dish did turn out fabulously delicious - tender, succulent and richly coated with an intense and darkly jammy wine sauce. I am sure though, that it would have turned out just as well without my additional touches. I've been cursed with an itch to tweak recipes to within an inch of their lives, so if you want the original version, you know what to do. I only added the oregano because my pot of oregano had come back from the dead and was sending waves of it's maddening perfume my way as I fiddled with my photo props in my balcony. I hunted high and low for octopus but in the end, had to settle for squid. I'm not sure this is Greek anymore what with chillies, Portuguese sausages and Italian wine in the mix. It was scrumptious though and truly, deeply, satisfying.


It went dreamily with thick slices of crusty, grainy, store bought bread and some of the Montepulciano d'Abruzzo that I added to the squid. I must warn you against pouring in wine that you want to get rid off into the cooking pot. Stale wine will make your dish taste stale. It's that simple. I opened a fresh bottle and liked it so much, I decided to add it to the pot. This deep red, fruity but dry rustic wine tasted primarily of dark cherries with a hint of cinnamon. It was inexpensive, uncomplicated but very drinkable and perfect with this simple and robustly flavoured dish.

Greek Style Squid and Sausage in Red Wine

Prep 25 mins      Cook 45 mins      Serves 4 generously

500 g (1 lb) squid (6 small to medium squids)
1 large onion, chop
3 large cloves garlic, chop
1 dried red chilli, chop
250 g (1/2 lb) spicy, rustic pork sausage like chorizo or chourico, cut into 2 cm (1 in) chunks
500 g (1 lb) potatoes, peel and cut into large chunks (I used 4 med sized potatoes and quartered each)
1 x 411 g can chopped tomatoes with juice (1 3/4 cups chopped tomatoes with juice)
150 ml (3/4 cup) rustic red wine
1 1/3 tsp fine sea salt (or to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 Tbsp crushed fresh oregano
Chopped fresh parsley for garnishing

Pull out squid heads. The entrails should follow the head. Cut off tentacles just before the eyes and discard everything after the eyes. Cut a slit at the pointed end of the squid tubes and remove everything from inside the cavity as best you can. Wash the insides of the cavities making sure nothing remains inside. Any grit should wash out the slit you cut earlier. Wash the heads/tentacles thoroughly. Leave tentacles whole and slice each tube into 5 - 6 thick rings. Drain everything well in a colander.

Preheat oven at 200 C (400 F) Heat about 5 tablespoons olive oil in an ovenproof pan or baking dish. When moderately hot, add the onion, garlic and chilli. Cook until softened and beginning to brown. Add the sausage and potato chunks and stir until everything is slick with the rosy oil.

Pour in tomatoes and juice and stir again until well mixed. Let mixture bubble for about 2 minutes before adding the wine. Stir and boil another 2 minutes. Add the salt and pepper, stir then turn off heat. Scatter the crushed oregano over and cover dish with a square of parchment paper as show in picture above. Put dish in oven and bake for 50 minutes or until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork, squid is tender and sauce is thick.

Remove from oven and stir gently to coat everything in the sauce. Dish out and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve immediately.