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Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Chilly fusilli

Pasta salad is misunderstood. Its vintage association with seventies barbecues and cheap salad bars have done it untold damage (I’m looking at you, Swagman).* But fuck all that because a good one is bloody delicious.

Obviously cold fusilli on its own is not the least bit exciting, which is why you need to dress it with a feisty blend of clingy flavours. Adding a little razzle dazzle on the side can distract from its smorgasbord roots (tonight's grilled and seasoned aubergines come courtesy of the River Café Cook Book) but is not entirely necessary. After chowing it all down, Adam happily declared he could eat this for dinner forever.

* If you have 30 seconds to lose, visit the Swagman link for what is sadly one of the most memorable TV ads of my childhood.

Base salad ingredients (for 2 pretty large serves)
1 big cup of wholeweat fusilli pasta
1/2 a continental cucumber (chopped into small slices)
200g feta cheese
1 handful cherry tomatoes (halved)
1 spring onion, finely chopped
Handful of blanched almonds
Handful of fresh basil leaves

Marinated mushrooms ingredients
250g button mushrooms (halved)
Japanese Soya Sauce
Balsamic Vinegar
A hefty teaspoon of Miso paste mixed with around 1/3 cup of water
1 clove garlic (finely sliced)

Extra dressing
Olive oil
Juice 1 lemon

And you’ll need 1 med-large eggplant/ aubergine.

Doing it
Don't worry too much about quantities. Any leftovers make for killer next day lunch box filler.

Cook your pasta then cool it straight away in cold water and set it aside to drain. Mix all your other salad ingredients together in a large bowl (crumbling the feta with your fingies).

Dry fry the blanched almonds in a hot pan, turning frequently to prevent them burning. Once they are lightly toasted, set them aside to cool then add them to your salad.

The mushroom marinade was entirely spontaneous so use whatever you've got. I mixed a big splash of balsamic vinegar, soya sauce and diluted miso paste in a bowl then thoroughly tossed through the button mushrooms and sliced garlic. Let the mush absorb the juice for a few minutes then pour the whole lot into a hot pan and cook it until the juice has reduced to a caramely sludge. Set aside to cool.

Finely slice your eggplant and grill it on both sides then toss it in olive oil, lemon juice and seasoning.

Thoroughly mix your pasta and mushrooms (with any juice) through the salad then pile it onto a plate alongside your sliced eggplant.

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