Orzo with mushrooms

Orzo, also known as risoni, looks just like little grains of rice although it’s actually a type of short cut pasta. You can use it in lots of dishes as an alternative to rice like risotto (orzotto)and pilafs or add a handful or two to soup. I’ve used it here cooked in mushroom stock and then mixed with browned onions and mushrooms with fresh parsley to add colour and contrast. It would be perfect as a vegan or vegetarian main course although I served it as side dish with pan-fried slices of lamb marinaded with garlic paste and ground cumin salt. Best served at room temperature, this will serve four people as a side dish. Leftovers are great in your lunch box the following day.

Mushrooms with orzo
  • 300g chestnut mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • Orzo – 4 handfuls
  • 2 tbsps light olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • Knorr mushroom stock pot with 300ml boiling water (you could also use stock made with dried mushrooms and then add those to the fresh mushrooms)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • A splash of white wine
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • Generous handful of coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley

To make…

  • Dissolve the mushroom stock pot in the boiling water in a medium saucepan. Add the orzo and cook for 10 minutes. Stir after a minute or so to prevent it sticking. The orzo will absorb a lot of the stock. Set aside once cooked. Don’t drain it as you’re going to use the cooking stock later.
  • Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large sauté pan. Add the onion slices with a pinch of salt and cook for 10 minutes until brown and caramelised. Stir in the garlic paste and the mushrooms and cook through for another couple of minutes so that all the oil is absorbed and the mushrooms have softened slightly.
  • Next, pour in the cooked orzo, the cooking stock and the white wine. Stir through for another few minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed.
  • Take it off the heat, season with black pepper and stir in the flat leaf parsley. Serve at room temperature.

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Swedish potato salad

Perfect with plain grilled salmon or smoked salmon, this Swedish potato salad is simple to make and a great ‘make ahead’ dish if you’ve got guests. Use new potatoes or a firm, waxy variety like Charlotte, a generous handful of fresh dill with a tangy sour cream dressing and you won’t be disappointed. This quantity serves four but it’s easy to scale up if you’re entertaining.

Swedish potato salad
  • 500g Charlotte or new potatoes, washed with loose skin scrubbed off
  • 15g fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 150ml pot of soured cream
  • 12 cornichons, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper

To make...

  • Cook the potatoes in boiling, lightly salted water for approx 10 minutes or until cooked through – test with the point of a sharp knife. Drain and turn out on a chopping board for them to cool thoroughly. Chop into bite sized chunks and place them in a large mixing bowl.
  • Add the very finely chopped red onion, cornichons and dill. Pour over the soured cream, season with black or white pepper and mix thoroughly. Transfer to a serving dish and refrigerate until needed.

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Tavas – Cypriot braised beef with potatoes, tomato and oregano

Tavas is a popular dish from the island of Cyprus that is incredibly simple to make and full of robust Mediterranean flavours. The Cypriots often use cinnamon in savoury dishes; they sprinkle it on chicken skin and over potatoes before roasting them and it gives a wonderful layer of flavour to the tomato sauce that the beef and potatoes are braised in here. It’s a dish best served just warm with green vegetables or a salad on the side.

Tavas

Serves 4

  • 1kg chunky slices of beef shin (you could also substitute lamb). 
  • 500g onions, sliced
  • 150ml light olive oil
  • 400g can of chopped tomatoes (or chopped and skinned ripe fresh tomatoes)
  • 1kg new potatoes, scrubbed and halved or quartered depending on their size
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 dessertspoon of tomato purée
  • 250 ml hot water
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • Salt and black pepper

To make…

  • Preheat the oven to 140°C.
  • Heat the oil in a fry pan and sauté the onions for 10 minutes with a pinch of salt until soft and translucent but not browned.
  • Place the onions, tomatoes, the water, the oregano, thyme and cinnamon, 1 tsp salt and 1tsp black pepper in a large roasting dish or shallow cast iron casserole. Mix thoroughly and add the thick chunks of beef and potatoes so that they are evenly distributed. Add a little more hot water and stir so the sauce comes to the same level as the the meat and potatoes if it needs it. Cover tightly with a lid or foil. Cook for 3 hours without peeking or stirring. The meat and potatoes should be tender and the sauce thick and delicious – the marbling in shin of beef melts into the sauce and adds both texture and flavour. Check the seasoning before serving.

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