Super-simple chicken pasta salad for lunch

This may seem a little industrious for Soulsubsistence, but while waiting for the snow-sleet-hailstone nightmare to stop (perhaps stupidly, this is Cumbria) before the dog gets her daily gallop, I thought I would share this rocking chickeny salady thing.

chicken pasta salad

Quick twine about ingredients

Chicken doesn’t have to be breast. It really, really doesn’t. Anyone who read the 13 banned foods post from last night should have been thoroughly put off all artificially-reared chicken anyway, and breast doesn’t just contain all those yummy growth hormones, it also gets the added delight of injected water. That’s to make it look fat and lucious. Because of course, size is all that matters. (You can tell men run the world, can’t you?! (sorreeee, guys …)

There’s better flavour in on-the-bone meat anyway, so picking up the cheaper thigh and drumsticks is a great way to get organic and free range chicken without having to save for them.
The other bugbear that gets me wrapped up in a rant is people who think about what they would like to eat, and then go out to buy it, leaving a refrigerator stocked high with all kinds of perfectly servicable ingredients. The best (and most economic) way to cook is to stick your head in the fridge and see what you’ve got. That’s what happened here, but it mainly occurs every night in this house.

I was told recently that it’s more of a skill than I realise; that ‘normal’ people don’t always have the ability to concoct what they want to eat from an array of leftovers and vegetables, but I think it’s more about practice than anything else. It’s a mindset, and it can be broken to great effect.

Rant over.

Chicken, chorizo and anything-goes-with-pasta salad

Take a couple of cooked chicken drummers, strip the meat and throw in a suitably-sized bowl. Thinly slice a generous handful of spinach, and mix with the chicken.

Get the pasta on to cook – I picked orzo as a shape; little rice-shaped pieces, but really, any shape will do. Quantity? How hungry are you?

Slice up or dice a small onion, chop some sun-dried tomatoes, a piece of red pepper, and cut up a handful of black olives into halves.

Slice – super-thin – about an inch of chorizo. More if you’ve made enough pasta for the 5,000.

Wang the well-drained pasta into the chicken and spinach while it’s still hot, because it will wilt the spinach ever-so-slightly.

Add in the rest of the chopped ingredients (and remember that other additions will work beautifully too) and mix until it’s all looking pretty even.

The Dressing

I love vinaigrette dressings to a fault. I’m sure a creamy, mayonnaisy dressing would be lovely with this, but since I’ve eaten almost a kilo of mayo in the past month (oh, glorious King Edward potato salad, how do I love you, let me count the ways …), I decided to go with vinaigrette.

Using the almost empty jar of English mustard, I tipped in a few tablespoons of red wine vinegar, a teaspoon of sugar, a couple of teaspoons of balsamic vinegar, a hefty pinch of dried basil, about a clove of grated garlic, a large pinch of Maldon salt, and added EVOO at the rate of approximately three-times the quantity of red wine vinegar (the balsamic is more ‘to taste’).

Give it a good shake so it emulsifies, taste it, adjust if necessary (good luck with that, I don’t have any tips for dressings, they’re my nightmare) and add cautiously to the salad, tossing it as you go.


Friday night is Curry Night! Or, here is the mess within which I live

I realise that everyone doesn’t need to see the appalling mess which litters my desk, but there just isn’t time to make it pretty. In 10 minutes it’ll be eaten. Either by me, or, because I’m still baking na’an breads, by the dog if I lose focus. She has surreptitiously inched closer and is now directly below my dinner.

curry and homemade na'an (and a lot of mess)

The point is this: here is my curry. It was mega easy to make (and believe me, I know a thing or two about being terrified of a recipe). I shied away from making curry from scratch for a long time, and the first time I attempted it, I was actually 30. No other type of meal has been held off for so long in the history of Sakina.

Anyway, I’m too lazy and busy today to make a proper curry using the fabulous 50 Great Curries of India by Camellia Panjabi, and neither do I have enough ingredients, so I cheated, and made a thoroughly unauthentic one, and you can too.

I’m gonna give you the curry instructions first, and the na’an bread ones second, because I have a feeling that the curry will be more likely to be made than the na’an (even though they are easier than making ordinary bread).

You will need:

Chicken breast x the number of people who are eating. Or more. I usually go for more.
2 x onions – one chopped, one sliced
Orange lentils
Yellow/red bell pepper
Your favourite curry paste
(I used Madras)
Olive oil

Chop the chicken into large bitesize pieces, and marinade in a tablespoon of curry paste and a few slugs of oil. I managed to do this several hours before dinner, so it worked very well, but that’s a rarity for me.

When you’re ready to cook, sling the onion into the bottom of a wide/large pan, with a few more slugs of oil, and fry on a low/med heat for ages. 10-15 minutes.

Wang some curry paste (how much depends on how hot you like it) into the pan, cook for about 30 seconds, and then heave a bunch of lentils in. I don’t know how many! Whatever you think. Err on the side of caution, is all, or you’ll be eating lentils for a fortnight.

Pour loads of water on top, bring to the boil, and simmer until the lentils are soft and cooked. I put a stock cube in for flavour and instead of salt, but it’s up to you.

I strung the pieces of chicken, alternated with chunks of yellow pepper onto some wooden skewers which I had hanging around since someone’s BBQ a few years ago, but you’re just as safe to bake them in a tray. Oven was at about 200 degrees C. (I wasn’t really paying attention).

When the lentils are cooked, if you have a handblender, knock yourself out – I don’t like it too smooth, just thick with texture. That’s why I sliced some of the onion.

When the chicken is cooked, unstring it into the curry, cook for a little longer, and away you go!

Homemade Na’an Breads

I got the recipe off a wicked little website called Aayi’s Recipes.

12oz plain or strong white breadflour
half tsp sugar
1 tsp dried yeast
3/4 tsp salt
2 tblsp plain yoghurt

120ml milk
3 tbsp water

Some nigella seeds (onion seeds)

Dissolve the salt and sugar into the water (needs to be slightly warmed), and add the yeast. Give it a whisk, stretch some cling film over the top of the container, and leave in a warm  place (I only gave it 5 minutes).

Mix the flour with all the other ingredients except for the onion seeds, and you’ll have a fabulous, bosom-soft bread dough. Knead that on a floury surface for a few minutes, and then stick it somewhere warm. Some brave people rise bread in the oven. I. Do. Not. Dare.

After the dough’s approximately doubled in size, heave it out, knock all the air out of it, cut it into half, then those pieces in half again, and roll out one of the pieces on a very floury surface. (BTW, the oven is now at 220 degrees C, for those who didn’t notice the sleight of hand there). If you have onion seeds, sprinkle them onto the floured surface. They’ll press in as you roll.

It doesn’t matter what shape the breads are, but they go quite easily into the tear shape that we’re used to seeing in supermarkets.

According to Aayi’s Recipes, it wants to be rolled out thicker than a chapati, and thinner than a paratha. Just play with it, experiment. I did.

Onto a hot baking tray, into the oven, and see what happens. They’re supposed to ‘puff up’. My first one was like a rugby ball, but the others puffed up randomly.

They stay in the oven for almost 7 minutes; just before then, get it out, turn it over, pour olive oil or garlic butter over it, and heave it back in again.

They’re ready when they look like na’an bread. This can happen for you.

And finally …

No one really needs a recipe for a salad, but cachumba is ace with curry. All I do is dice some cucumber really small, and half a red onion, mix the two together and add a couple of teaspoons of mint sauce. Give it all a good mix.

Stock Pot, Anti Waste Vessel

I hate waste. I just hate waste. It makes me cringe when I’m in my most energetically enironmental and fills me with guilt when I’m lazy and can’t be bothered.

Whether it’s a lonely last bite of food on a plate (or even the gravy) or the bones of a bird thrown out without boiling, I can’t. Bear. Waste.

So here we have a chicken. Yesterday it did us roasted with potatoes, carrots and a whole onion, all in the same tin; today it was chicken and leek pie, with brocolli and peas and now its dull carcase is stuffed in my stock pot, boiling with a large onion cut in half (no need to remove the skin), 4 bay leaves, a handful of fennel seeds, a carrot and a celery stalk. It’s not pretty but tomorrow I can either make some kind of winter veg soup or even risotto.


Chicken Sausages… Good idea or off beak?

The leading trend for many farmers in the UK is to become involved in the creation of their own products as well as just the raw materials. This no doubt has financial and business sense behind it as I’m sure many of them would rather just farm. Selling their own meat boxes, vegetable boxes, dealing with online customers and email isn’t always compatible with walking out amongst sheep. Many like to think of themselves as businessmen above all else, and some of them certainly are.

A certain local poultry farmer, David Knipe seems to have a bit of the touch. Chicken and turkey burgers are a ‘been there, done that’ type of thing, but how often do you eat free range chicken sausages?

PreparationChicken Sausage “Cassoulet”

This is what I imagine a ‘cassoulet’ to be like. I’m not sure that I’ve ever had one on purpose.

Chop into large bitesize pieces whatever helpless, aging vegetables you have hanging around. I found peppers, onions, tomatoes, garlic and celery hanging around, so in they went (garlic with the skins still on).

Give them a spin in a bowl with a sprinkling of salt, pepper, and a couple of teaspoons of olive oil and place on the bottom of a baking dish. Snuggle the sausages into the vegetables and put into the oven on 180 deg C for about 25-35 minutes.

Remove from oven and eat… with mash, or bulghar wheat or as in my case, cheesy soft polenta. The tomatoes make the dish moist and the meat juices trickle into the medley below.

And the sausages? They were surprisingly like pork sausages. I would guess they were flavoured with a pork sausage mix. There was an overcurrent of sage but it wasn’t too strong and they were extremely meaty. If you have been used to the pap which is more breadcrumb fillers and eyeballs than meat, these sausages would blow your socks off. They were a great deal more substantial than anything I have had for some time.