Or is it pilaf? I believe the words are synonymous, but perhaps it depends if your dish is Middle Eastern (pilaf) or Indian (pilau). This one is a pilau because it’s based on one of Meera Sodha’s from her wonderful book Fresh India, which I mentioned here and a copy of which I now own.
A pilau is made with long grain rice and is a great way of using up leftover ingredients, which is what I was doing the other night when I made it. I added asparagus because at this time of year during the British asparagus season, hardly a day goes by when it isn’t on our menu at home.
Salad can be many different things: a side dish or a main meal; vegetarian or containing meat; cold or warm. This delicious pasta salad works both as a (vegetarian) meal in itself and as an accompaniment to barbecued meats. Youngest son and I had it for supper the other night when my husband was at a meeting. We nearly didn’t have any supper at all. Just as we were sitting down to eat I dropped my glass of water on the granite work surface and it shattered into millions of pieces. I was still finding tiny shards of glass the next day, including in my sandal, even though I had vacuumed and swept very thoroughly. Fortunately though, I’d moved the bowl of salad to the table before dropping the glass so we were able to eat our supper without tearing our insides to shreds.
We ate this with some roasted asparagus spears. At this time of year, my kitchen is hardly ever without British asparagus. You have to make the most of the short season.
Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Basil and Black Olives
175g dried pasta
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and sliced
225g cherry tomatoes, halved
4-6 spring onions, sliced
8-12 black olives, pitted and halved
8-12 fresh basil leaves, torn
2 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
2 tbsp oil (from the sun-dried tomato jar)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 tbsp sun-dried tomato paste
pinch of sugar
sea salt and black pepper
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Basil leaves to garnish
Cook pasta until al dente, drain and refresh with cold water. Turn into a large bowl and toss with the oil
Add sun-dried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, spring onions, olives and basil. Toss
Make dressing: put sun-dried tomatoes, oils, vinegar, garlic and tomato paste in a blender (I used my mini food processor) with the sugar, salt and pepper and blitz until fairly smooth
Mini food processor
Pour dressing over the pasta and toss well. Ideally leave it for 1-2 hours for the flavours to infuse
Garnish with basil
To roast asparagus:
Snap off the bottoms and lay the spears in rows on a roasting tray. Drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle on some sea salt. Put the tray in a hot oven (near the top of the Aga roasting oven) for 10 minutes, giving it a bit of a wiggle after 5 to move the spears around a little. You can eat them hot like this, or let them cool then add a little lemon juice and black pepper, and maybe some shavings of parmesan to make another delicious salad.