What do you get if you cross an apple with a Christmas tree?
~ Christmas Cracker Joke.
The following recipe evokes memories of summer picnics on the hill in the park under a blazing sun. All nine of us sitting on a picnic blanket munching at the different bowls of salads and treats we hauled up (ok, it wasn’t as far as the “haul” makes it seem – maximum a 10-15 minute walk from our house) and running around playing chasing (tag) or stuck in the mud (a game where if you are caught you are “stuck” and have to stand with your legs wide so your rescuer can crawl under your legs to free you).
I always loved this salad – the crunch of almonds, celery and cucumber complemented the softness of the peas, pasta and tomato, The sweetness of the pineapple contrasted with the lightly fragrant chicken and other more savoury vegetables. Now, even in other recipes when I make chicken pasta salad I always want to add pineapple – they are married together in my brain for always! As an adult, I love this salad even more because much of it can be prepared ahead of time – the meat, the pasta, and most of the vegetables. The dressing, tomatoes, cucumber, celery, pineapple and spinach can be added just before serving. When I lived in Korea, I’d make a big batch of this to last 2-3 days and I’d add these ingredients every morning.
This recipe is very faithful to what my mom would have prepared for us all those years ago – and that is still a summer favourite for all of us, even if the picnics are no longer a summer tradition. Somethings that are different to my mom’s recipe include leaving out the tomatoes – sun ripened ones are best! I also forgot that she uses celery, plus we had none in the house, so that was left out but if you like it and have it, then add it. We never would have had actual pineapple growing up – we’d always use a tin, in it’s own juice for this recipe. Additionally, my parents aren’t mad on spinach so we wouldn’t have really eaten it growing up. Instead, lettuce – usually ice-berg or little gem would have been put at the bottom of the bowl so you could mix it in yourself, as not everyone wanted to have lettuce with the salad. When I’ve made this before I’ve always complained that it never tasted exactly like mom’s – the missing ingredient? Curry powder. I asked her recently when I was 100% happy with the taste and realised that’s what was missing! So, don’t forget the curry powder.
This recipe, according to the USDA recipe calorie counter is about 3608 calories altogether but you can divide that by 6-8 portions which comes to about 600 calories each. I couldn’t find an option for stir-frying the chicken so I’m sure that adds a few calories more! Also, you can easily add any more or less of any ingredient, including the dressing. I’ll be honest I prefer a bit more mayonnaise in mine – but it’s what I’m used to.
I’m really excited to take part in my first Fiesta Friday recipe of the year and even more excited to take part in the Healthy Recipe Challenge. Angie is hosting us and it’s open until the 31st January so you’ve plenty of time to get at least one recipe in! If you don’t want to participate in the challenge you can still join us at Fiesta Friday 154
Chicken, Almond, Pineapple and Spinach Pasta Salad.
(slightly adapted from my mom’s recipe)
- 3 chicken breasts, bite-size pieces
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp curry powder (approx)*
- freshly ground black pepper
- 500g (approx) conchiglie/shell pasta cooked to al dente in salted water or (unsalted) chicken stock , drained and rinsed off in cold water, to cool.**
- ½-¾ cup frozen petit pois, cooked in lightly salted water and cooled**
- ¼-½ cup of sliced almond, lightly toasted under a grill/broiler and salted, then cooled
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
- 6-7 scallions, peeled and sliced thinly
- 1 small yellow bell pepper, finely diced
- ½ quartered cucumber
- 5-6 rings of fresh pineapple, in bitesize pieces** (approx)
- 1 cup washed spinach (approx)
- 2-3 stick celery, if using, washed and diced finely (optional)
- 10 cherry tomatoes, if using, halved or 2-3 small tomatoes, quartered (optional)
- 5-6 tbsp Hellmann’s Mayonnaise
- 2 tsp Wholegrain Mustard
- 2 tsp -1 tbsp pineapple juice
- freshly ground pepper
- Heat the oil in a frying pan over high heat, add the chicken, curry powder and seasoning. Stir-fry.
- Once cooked and lightly browned, remove from the pan and set aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, boil a large pot of lightly salted water and add the pasta and cook as per package directions (I prefer to cook to 1 minute or so under the package directions).
- Drain, and rinse the pasta in cold water.
- Meanwhile, assemble the salad ingredients – starting with the pasta and peas. If eating right away, or within the next hour, add all the salad ingredients. If you are serving this later or the next day, leave out the pineapple, cucumber, spinach, tomatoes and celery, if using, until you are serving.
- Now, add the cooled chicken and toss again.
- Lastly just before serving, add the dressing ingredients and stir them in until everything is coated. If you want to add more mayonnaise or mustard, go ahead – it’s your salad now.
*I don’t know if this makes a difference but it might – we always use Schwartz Medium Curry Powder on our chicken.
**Alternatively, to save on pots and time, you can put the frozen petit pois in a colander and then drain the pasta onto the peas. Leave the pasta and the peas to cool naturally in the colander for a few minutes (thereby cooking the peas). Then rinse both under cold water.
***We would have used tinned pineapple, in it’s juice when I was a kid. If this is your option, but the tinned pineapple in the fridge overnight, unopened until ready to add it.
Celery is one of those things that always seems to cause food poisoning. I’ve had several friends get it and the culprit is always celery left in water. So, for a safety precaution, I prefer to not add the celery until just before serving.