So it is that I often find myself creating a grand roast creature for mr_snips at Christmas. At one time it was largely mythical creatures like unicorn, phoenix or My Little Pony. In recent years he's moved on to endangered species, and this year suggested the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus.
You know how it is with land-dwelling Cephalopoda. The fishmonger sends you to the butcher, the butcher sends you back to the fishmonger, then they start suggesting the Chinese supermarkets... anyway. I finally sourced one, and here it is in all its glory:
Grand Roast Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus
Half a suitably bulbous small Butternut squash crossways and dig out as many of the seeds as you can. Drizzle a little olive oil into the cavity and roast in a low oven until it is soft (an hour is usually enough). Allow to cool, and then scrape out the flesh, removing any remaining seeds, while being careful to keep the outer skin intact. Mash the butternut squash together with chick-peas, softened onion, and festive herbs and spices (I used freshly grated nutmeg, mace, a pinch of cumin, and a generous quantity of sumac and savory and freshly-ground black pepper -- a no-salt mix) and a dash of Maggi Sauce (or suitable alternative). Mix in some strong grated cheese and add breadcrumbs until the mixture is crumbly. Then add an egg, mix, and add flour until the mixture is of a good texture. Spoon the mixture back into the octopus, including cherry tomatoes (as internal organs and eyes). Fashion a beak and legs from sliced leek. Put a tinfoil hat on it and bake in a moderate oven until it is cooked through (half an hour is plenty). Take its hat off and cook for a further ten at high heat (or grill) to brown the top and split the eyes. Garnish appropriately and serve.