Sumac Octopus with Pomegranate

Category – Seafood/Salad; Cuisine type – Ottoman/Middle Eastern

Courtesy: Chef Silvena Rowe and The H Dubai

Celebrity Chef Silvena Rowe chose to share this amazing recipe from her cookbook Orient Express, specially for my blog readers. The salad looks very dramatic and vibrant, just like Silvena’s personality. It’s easy, uses the popular local spice Sumac and can easily be stirred up.

For the printable recipes

Serves 8 persons

Octopus –  1, whole weighing around 1.5kg
White Wine Vinegar – 3 tbsp
Lemon – 1/2, juiced
Bay leaves – 2
Black Peppercorns – 3
Sea salt– 1/2 tbsp
Pomegranate Molasses – 2 tbsp
Caster Sugar – 1tbsp
Ground Sumac* – 1/2 tbsp
Red Onion – 1, finely sliced

To serve
Olive Oil – 3 to 4 tbsp
Pomegranate – 1, seeds only
Fresh Oregano – A small bunch, leaves finely chopped
Ground Sumac – extra
Fresh Bread

Method of Preparation

To Poach the Octopus
• Boil 1 lt of water in a saucepan and add the White Vinegar, Lemon juice, Bay leaves, Black Peppercorns and Sea salt. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Using tongs and holding the Octopus by the head, dip it in the simmering poaching liquid 3 times, for about 15 seconds each time. This is known as scaring and will prevent the Octopus tentacles curling up
• Next, place the Octopus in the simmering water and allow it to cook for 30 – 40 minutes. Drain and cool. Then remove the head and use just the body and tentacles. This method of cooking the Octopus is the same whether you are going to grill it or just marinate it as here
• In a  bowl, combine the White Vinegar, Pomegranate Molasses, Sugar and Sumac. Stir until the Sugar is completely dissolved. Season, then add the red Onion and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes

To Serve
Slice the Octopus very thinly, almost Sashimi style, and arrange on a platter. Pour over the Pomegranate mixture, then drizzle with the Olive Oil. Scatter over the Pomegranate seeds and Oregano leaves. Season to taste and finally sprinkle with the extra Sumac. Serve with fresh bread

Note on the dish
Octopus can be very tough, so it is best poached before using it in a dish. Use fresh Octopus if possible. If using frozen, be sure to defrost thoroughly.

*Note on Sumac
Sumac is  a very popular spice used in the Middle-Eastern dishes, that is often used as a substitute for lemons. The fruits of the genus Rhus (Sumac is any one of approximately 250 species of flowering plants in the genus Rhus and grow in subtropical and temperate regions throughout the world, especially in Africa and North America) are ground into a reddish-purple powder used as a spice in Middle Eastern cuisine to add a lemony taste to salads or meat. In Arab cuisine, it is used as a garnish on Mezze dishes such as Hummus and is added to salads in the Levant. In Iranian (Persian and Kurdish) cuisine, Sumac is added to rice or kebab. In Jordanian and Turkish cuisine, it is added to salad-servings of kebabs and lahmacun. In North America, the Smooth Sumac and the Staghorn Sumac are sometimes used to make a beverage termed Sumac-ade, Indian lemonade or Rhus juice. This drink is made by soaking the drupes in cool water, rubbing them to extract the essence, straining the liquid through a cotton cloth and sweetening it. Native Americans also used the leaves and drupes of the Smooth and Staghorn Sumacs combined with tobacco in traditional smoking mixtures. {Info on Sumac gathered from here}

I love this versatile spice that is used in most Middle Eastern salads {like the Fattoush Salad that I learnt at Six Senses Zighy Bay} and learnt more about it’s usage along with many other dishes from Middle Eastern cuisine on my Arabian Pilgrimage Food Tour With Frying Pan Adventures. Once, I almost finished half the Sumac that was there in the bottle when I spruced up my Tantuni Rolls, a very popular Turkish street food. 

{A complete listing of the recipes that I’m going to share over this period}


The Magic Of Chef Silvena Rowe

I get a call as I drove, the voice across the phone introducing herself as Silvena Rowe. She invites me to a dinner that very evening, at the Capital Club and explains the menu over the phone and tells me that there’s going to be a real surprise – something that I had never come across in Dubai before. I tell her that I would probably not be able to attend on time and I didn’t want to be rude to join in late for a dinner that was likely to be an exclusive ‘sit down’ one. She tells me it would be okay even if I could come before the dessert is served. After we hung up, I realised that I just spoke to the ‘celebrity chef’ Silvena Rowe and I resented showing no excitement in my voice – the call was so unexpetced. An hour later, I had chucked up all my other plans for the evening, my decision firmed up further by a post that I had previously read on her {Silvena Rowe – Can she shake up Dubai’s Middle Eastern cuisine?}, written by The Hedonista. The end result? I did get splattered on a page on City Times. Not on Page 3 though!

When I walked in, I blessed myself for having decided to arrive on time – a very formal set up of a 4-course dinner with wine pairing and designated tables for the guests. As the dinner rolled on with a menu created specially by Silvena (loved the Ottoman spiced soft Shell Crab in Coconut and Coriander gravy followed by an equally gorgeous Black Cod which had been glazed in Pomegranate and Sumac), I realised that her persona and flamboyance translated into the menu itself. And the way she served the dessert – the •Dubai• Chocolate explosion, as she described it, was more than just a surprise. Purely theatrical and dramatic from the beginning till the end, this was a complete act. The staff covered the tables with plastic and we were asked to remove our mobile phones from the table. Different sauces were splattered across the round table, coloured edible powders sprinkled over it and finally a chocolate cauldron smashed in front of us – and chocolate truffles, marshmallows, foiled peanuts and almonds – everything splattered all over (above). Suddenly we were like excited children, scampering to dip our loot and gorge. The Hedonista and FooDiva, my blogger friends and co-diners that night would agree that the entire mood of the evening had undergone a total mood swing, from the time we had walked in and by the time we had left.

Ramadan Offering in The H Dubai
Arcadia Lounge, The H Hotel: The buffet is created by Chef Silvena Rowe and is promising a buffet which is ‘fit for the Ottoman kings’. I definitely believe in her, specially, after I have had a preview of the dinner at the Capital Club earlier. The Iftar menu is available from sunset to 11:30pm – unlimited buffet of authentic and contemporary Ottoman and Arabic dishes, including unusual fresh salads and Mezze’s, live cooking stations, homemade desserts and Ramadan beverages. An a la carte Suhour menu is available from 9:00pm to 2:00am, and includes contemporary mezzes, hot dishes and desserts – all prepared by Chef Silvena. Interestingly, one can have an ‘Iftar Treasure Chest’ delivered home which provides an unusual, hearty feast that can feed at least 10 persons. {Dhs 180/person. The Iftar Treasure Chest cost Dhs 795. Call +9714 501 8611. More info here or you may avail the Lime and Tonic discount}


My previous post chalks out all about Ramdan in Dubai | Where All You Can Eat. During this entire month, I will be sharing special Ramadan recipes, gathered from many signature restaurants of top hotels in Dubai and around the region. I know that many people do not go out during Ramadan and prefer to cook at home. Most would like to cook special dishes, but they don’t have access to these restaurant recipes. Each hotel that I have contacted has graciously sent me the recipes. I have been inspired by Dima Sharif, who has a tradition of posting daily recipes on her blog during Ramadan. This year, she explains the tradition of Ramadan as it is observed in different countries. Do join her in her journey as well – Ramadan Special 2013 – A Focus on Ramadan Culture & The Spirit of Ramadan. Also, my blog giveaway – Theme Night Dinner invite for two’, courtesy, The Address Marina, runs throughout the month of Ramadan.

Click here to enter the Giveaway!

Do join me as I post special recipes from the various signature restaurants in Dubai – each hotel I have contacted have been really gracious and have handed over their special recipe. I hope you try out these recipes (assuming that a restaurant recipe is not difficult to cook!), send me pictures and do keep connected over Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. Enjoy your summers and yes, do show off this amazing Sumac and Pomegranate Octopus recipe to your guests. Happy Cooking!

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Disclaimer: The images of Octopus Salad and Silvena have been provided by Silvena and she has chosen this recipe from her cookbook to share in my blog. The opinions stated here are my own and are independent. I hope you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals. Please do not use any material from this post. You can see more pictures of my travel and food journey here.

You may also be interested in these recipes:
• Date Gyōza (Japanese Dumpling) | Recipe From ZUMA
Ginger Lotus Sea Bass | Recipe From Blue Jade, Ritz Carlton
• Chicken Kabsa | Recipe From Asateer, The Palm Atlantis

Written by IshitaUnblogged

A Culinary Travel Blog by a Bong Gourmet. From Dubai, Kolkata & the world beyond, street food to fine dining, recipes to chef talks, it pens down experiences. With 2 kids in tow!


  1. Beautiful looking octopus dish. I was very disappointed to miss that Silvena night – also taken aback when she phoned me direct. Very un-Dubai.

    1. I did have the Black Cod glazed with Pomegranate and Sumac. Loved her use of different local spices – surprised with the use of whole coriander in one of the dishes. Oh yes, it’s very un-Dubai – tweets back, retweets posts. A welcome change:)

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