Sergio Paolo, our Distillery Brand Ambassador, has called Orkney home for nine years now. It might be a long way from Positano on Italy’s Amalfi Coast, where he grew up, but he makes sure that his favourite Italian family traditions find their way into his Orcadian family Christmas.
“Christmas is a time for families and I like to keep many of the traditions passed on to me by my Mamma - I hope my children will take some of these into their own adult lives too. On Christmas Eve in Orkney, just as in Italy, we enjoy a late fish dinner followed by the exciting task of opening gifts. Then on Christmas Day it’s all about sitting down together and enjoying wonderful regional food. My wife and I share the cooking, mixing British and Italian cuisine, and I create different dishes each year, adapting Italian recipes to local Orkney produce. As in my childhood, we sit down to eat at 2pm and often don’t leave the table until 9pm! This fish recipe is one of my favourites – it’s a little bit different and very indulgent. But then Christmas is the time to be indulgent, isn’t it?”
POLPO ALLA LUCIANA
(Serves four people)
Polpo alla Luciana is a traditional dish from the Campania region served during Christmas festivities. The name Luciana derives from Santa Lucia, an old area of Naples known for the expert fishermen who catch octopus on the sea rocks around the famous Bay of Napoli overlooking the Vesuvio.
600g of octopus
100g of black olives (the ones with the stones have more flavour – but remove before cooking!)
A bunch of fresh parsley, roughly torn
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
One tablespoon of unsalted capers (preferably not the ones in vinegar)
Salt and pepper to taste
6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
One chilli pepper
500g of cherry tomatoes
Stick of Ciabatta
- Wash the octopus under cold running water (or buy it already cleaned if you prefer less mess).
- Fill the head of the octopus with half of the olives, two of the garlic cloves, the parsley and the capers; seal with toothpicks.
- Cook the octopus in a large pan with four tablespoons of the olive oil, freshly ground black pepper, chilli pepper and some garlic purée; allow to braise gently for about 30 minutes on a low flame until tender.
- Half the cherry tomatoes and cook them gently for 20 minutes or so in the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil with the other two garlic cloves and a pinch of sea salt.
- Add the remaining olives, cooked cherry tomatoes and garlic to the pan of octopus and, when it comes up to simmering point, slice the Ciabatta thinly and diagonally, and toast it lightly to make crostini.
- Place the octopus and its rich tomato sauce in a warm serving dish and top with the crostini.
Sergio’s serving tip
Enjoy paired with Highland Park 12 Year Old Viking Honour – the notes of orange and rich dried fruit complement the dish perfectly.