Quick and Easy Octopus Salad and Broccolini Cheese Tart

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Today’s post is brought to you courtesy of the weird and beautiful things I found in the back of my fridge this week: left over smelly cheese and vacuum-packed pre-cooked octopus!

It was one of these nights, when we had ran out of fresh meat and were left with odd assortments of vegetables, opened tubs of cream and lonely eggs. I actually like it when this happens, as it forces me to not only clean up the fridge but also challenges me to come up with interesting ideas for dinner. We call it our own Mystery Box Challenge!

A quick search revealed half a shelf-full of cheese leftover from a big dinner party last month: I picked the French contingent of mimolette, camembert and tomme, leaving the blue vein, swiss cheese and cheddar for another use. Anne was hoping there would be enough to melt into a fondue; sadly for her, it was just the right amount to turn into a tart along with caramelised onions and a bunch of broccolini. She wasn’t disappointed for long, puff pastry has this magical effect on my kids: it makes anything taste good!

Another interesting discovery was a packet of pre-cooked octopus I had forgotten I bought from the supermarket a while ago. It reminded me of the times we cruised around Portugal and Spain, and I fell in love with octopus salad and tapas there. That was 10 years ago, and in spite of my many attempts at re-creating these dishes, I have never come close ( probably because I can’t boil octopus properly, it is either too tough or turns into mush!). I can stop trying now that I have found these little gems that only require heating in the microwave, slicing, seasoning and a splash of olive oil. For $13 a packet, it is a cheap trip down memory lane!

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Throw back 10 years ago in Spain, the kids could not get enough of this!

Cheese and broccolini tart

This is my favourite way of using any cheese left over in my fridge. The flavour will of course depend on the cheese used. This time, I used mimolette, camembert and tomme. This resulted in a fairly mild tasting tart, though you could still tell it was cheesy. A blue vein and/or washed rind cheese will definitely make for a stronger flavour!

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Serves 4 as a main

Ingredients:

1 sheet of puff pastry ( I used store bought, but feel free to make your own!)
100g butter
2 brown onions, peeled and sliced
1 tsp honey
a handful of thyme sprigs ( 3)
1 cup thickened cream
3 eggs
1 tbsp dijon mustard
300g mixed cheeses, rind removed, and roughly chopped
1 bunch broccolini

  1. If using frozen, thaw out puff pastry at room temperature, then roll out to fit a round flan tin. Dot with a fork. Line with parchment paper and add ceramic beads. Place in the fridge for 30mn. Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
  2. In the meantime, melt the butter in a frypan and saute the onions over low heat for about 20 minutes, or until very soft ( do not let them burn). When nearly done, add the honey and thyme and stir to caramelise slightly. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Bake the pastry in the hot oven for 15 mn.
  4. In a small bowl, beat the eggs, the thickened cream and mustard until combined.
  5. When the pastry is cooked, remove the parchment paper and the ceramic beads. Spread the caramelised onions on the base, sprinkle the chopped cheese all around, pour in the egg mixture and place the broccolini on top.
    Reduce the oven temperature to 180C and bake for 30 minutes.
  6. Let cool for 15mn and serve warm with a green salad.

Octopus Salad

This dish is inspired by the octopus salads you find all over Portugal and the braised octopus tapas dish, Pulpo Gallego, a classic from Spain north western region, Galicia. I first tasted this dish at the Portosin Yacht Club in Galicia in 2006. I totally adored it and became so obsessed with it, being lucky enough to cruise around the area again 5 years later, I asked Terry to take the boat back so we could have dinner there again. That meant a detour of 100 nautical miles, but it was so worth it!!
Mine is a quick and easy version, the cheat’s way, as I am using a pre-cooked ready-to-eat octopus instead of simmering the fresh thing for hours ( though, using a pressure cooker did reduce the cooking time drastically to about 30mn). There are no specific quantities for the dressing, it is a matter of taste, though I would recommend you be generous with the olive oil and the paprika!

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This is the dish without lettuce, perfect snack!

Serves 4, as a side dish

Ingredients:

200g pre-cooked octopus
1/3 iceberg lettuce, washed, trimmed and roughly torn
Sea salt flakes, to taste
Smoked paprika, to taste
Extra virgin olive oil, to taste

  1. Place the lettuce in a serving bowl.
  2. Microwave the octopus as per the packet’s instructions. Slice and add to the lettuce.
  3. Sprinkle generously with sea salt, smoked paprika and extra virgin olive oil.
  4. Serve cold or at room temperature.
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And here’s what the packet looks like, if you’re heading to the supermarket!! 

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