Avocado, bacon, tomato and pesto pasta salad

Every now and then, a dish comes along that just totally surprises you. This could be a restaurant dish that seemed like the risky choice and ends up stealing the show. A way of cooking a certain ingredient that turns you from a sceptic to a full on fan. Or a pasta salad designed to just use up bits and bobs from the fridge that becomes your favourite lunch in a long time!

Calling this pasta salad ‘a dish’ is probably almost too extravagant. Yes, it is super simple, but it puts those packaged supermarket offerings to shame. It all just works perfectly together and is so addictive that the spare serving you’d made for lunch the next day might just get eaten too… Super crispy salty bacon, peppery rocket, creamy avocado and juicy tomatoes – what is not to like? Just looking at the picture again is making me hungry! The recipe is really just a guideline, for example I used orzo pasta here, in the spirit of using things up from my cupboard, but of course use any shape you fancy.

Avocado, bacon and tomato pesto pasta salad

Serves 2

  • 100g orzo
  • 3tbsp pesto
  • 4 rashers of bacon
  • 1/2 avocado
  • handful cherry tomatoes
  • large handful of rocket

Boil the pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water for 8-10 minutes until al dente. Meanwhile, fry the bacon until crisp. Place on kitchen paper to absorb excess oil and snip into 3cm chunks. Halve the cherry tomatoes and dice the avocado into large cubes.

When the pasta is cooked, drain well and tip into a large mixing bowl. Stir through the remaining ingredients and season generously with pepper (the bacon and pesto should be salty enough). Enjoy!

Giant couscous, roasted tomato and goats cheese salad

I am not the biggest salad eater. During term time, nearly anything else will appeal more than a bowl of leaves after a long day of revision. Simple, quick and cheap though salads may be, several hours of reading about 18th century Renaissance cabinets leaves me craving comfort food and a treat instead. Nevertheless, this year the healthy eating kick that sweeps the country every January seems to have finally affected me and I began to think about what simple, healthy but still really delicious meals I could incorporate into my meal rotation.

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My other concern with salads is making sure that they are filling enough that I don’t defeat the whole point by following it up with far too many Hobnobs afterwards. This recipe, bulked out with couscous and a sensible amount of cheese, means that this is not a problem. I adapted this recipe from a Waitrose version that used farro and roasted kale instead – my baby steps with healthy eating means I’m not in love with kale just yet. Nowhere in Cambridge seems to sell farro, hence the giant couscous which provides a similar texture and bite. Finally, my initial plan was to roast the onion and tomato for 10-15 minutes – until I walked into my kitchen and discovered the ‘Out of Order’ sign on my oven door. I still think roasting them would be delicious but this method actually makes it even quicker and simpler – my ideal lunch.

Giant couscous, roasted tomato and goats cheese salad

Serves 2

  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 2 large tomatoes, quartered – or a handful of halved cherry tomatoes
  • dried oregano
  • 125g giant couscous
  • 100g rocket
  • 100g goats cheese, crumbled

Heat a generous drizzle of olive oil in a frying pan. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes until beginning to soften and caramelise, stirring regularly to prevent it catching. Add the tomatoes and continue cooking for a further 5-8 minutes until the tomatoes are also caramelising and releasing their juices.

Meanwhile, cook the couscous in boiling salted water for 6-8minutes until al dente.

Drain the couscous and tip into the frying pan. Stir all together so that the couscous gets coated with the tomato juices and olive oil. Stir through the rocket. Pile into bowls and top with crumbled goats cheese and a final drizzle of olive oil.