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.


Waste not, want for nothing

So there appears to be a recession going on at the moment and it’s probably world-wide, if you believe what you hear in the media. I read an article last week that suggested it isn’t technically a recession. My understanding of the description was that the term ‘recession’ is only applied when two consecutive quarters have been in a downturn. Apparently, this quarter has shown a very small growth. Hey ho.

Petrol is higher than ever in price, and food is still soaring. It isn’t a nightmare yet, but it is aspiring to be so.

The best way to approach it seems to be to pull in the belt and make the most of everything.

There’s an old saying “waste not, want not”, and it seems to work. If you waste nothing, you never run out. Using up leftovers can be a real chore but there’s something immoral in throwing out food that’s perfectly fine. (Homemade food is often more attractive for longer, because it isn’t full of fillers and thickeners).

There’s always the freezer of course, but if you can stand having variations of the same dish over a couple of days (even three), that is just as pennywise, and maybe more satisfying. It’s easier to control by not making too much in the first place  but it’s still possible to be creative.

Tonight’s Example:

Bolognese sauce with 300g beef mince from Steadmans Butchers in Kirkby (about £3.30).

1st incarnation: pasta bake – 3 handfuls of large pasta shells (lumaconi) cooked and mixed with 3 big spoonfuls of bolognese & placed in a baking dish (preheat oven on 180 deg C). A few dollops of soft cheese (preferably Ricotta but mine was Philly-style) on the top, a grating of cheddar, followed by a layer of parmesan and herbs. Bake for about 20-30mins until browned on top.

2nd use: pasta bake in the microwave & fresh salad

3rd version: mince (still bolognese) and baked new spuds with broccoli and peas.

4th and final tastiness (two nights later as had a break from mince): added a chopped, tiny chilli and snipped in a handful of coriander stalks.

before cooking - baked sweetcorn on the cob

Corn on the cob in the oven with just Maldon and olive oil.


Just the additions of a homemade flour tortilla and a fresh, chopped salsa of peppers, onions, tomato, jalapeno and coriander are enough to turn the same mince into a completely different meal.

corn with chilli bol and salsa


Dressed for Sunday Dinner

Sunday dinner is usually an amalgamation of all the leftovers from the weekend (from Thursday night). Tonight’s was unhot Texas Beef Chilli, Meatballs in Italian style sauce, fresh salad, cauliflower & celery slaw and quinoa again. Magpie has been making an effort with a variety of vegetable dishes and salads, the principal aim being to entice Himself to eat more vegetables and grains. Bizarrely, tonight the caulislaw was a hit (see below for ‘recipe’. No pictures because it vanished out of the bowl in the first minute it was on the table.)

A great friend asked for the salad dressing formula, so also find that below. It’s only a formula. Everyone’s tastes are different. The only way to make salad dressing is through trial and error and remembering what worked and what didn’t. Magpie tends not to remember, which leads to inconsistent success with dressings, but the formula is simple.

A bowlful of the freshest florets you have cut yourself from a head of cauliflower (i.e. not ready cut in a bag).
Half an onion/a whole small onion, sliced thinly.
A handful of parsley, scissored into the bowl, stalks ‘n’ all.
A heaped tsp mayonnaise.
A medium pinch of salt (preferably Maldons, said the food snob).
Mix all of the above very well.

Salad Dressing
Take as small a jar (with a lid) as you can find.
Fill a third of it with whichever vinegar  you have (not malt). Cider and white wine vinegar are both traditional. Balsamic is also very good; it feels really extravagant using it in a dressing.
Fill the remaining two thirds of the jar with the best Extra Virgin Olive Oil that you can afford, but leave a little room for the other ingredients.
Drop a teaspoon of made mustard into the jar. Add a pinch of salt, a pinch of dried oregano and pop the lid on tightly.
Hold it away from yourself and shake rapidly. This will emulsify it and give it body.