My new-found partiality to Orzo

Spinach, Feta and Cherry Tomoto Orzo Salad

I’ve only recently discovered Orzo. This delicous rice like pasta that only takes six minutes to cook is opening up all sorts of new summer recipes for me.

I still find my previous lack of knowledge of this food bizarre, I don’t know how I missed it! Every Saturday I try to get my hands on The Guardian Weekend Magazine; either buying the paper myself, riffling through it in a pub or cafe or pinching the magazine from my boyfriend. I read it rather like guys read a newspaper, starting at the back. But rather than looking through the sports pages, I skip to the recipe pages.

It was this weekly leafing through the recipes that first introduced me to Orzo. I tried Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Orzo recipe with peas, fried pancetta, garlic and on a whim I added a dollop of creme fraiche to top it off, about two weeks ago. It was  simple and delicious. Although, when I’m hungry I have an annoying habit of putting too much pasta or rice, or in this case Orzo into the boiling water. I should have stuck with the recommended 50g on the packet, unfortunately I ended up learning that the hard way.

Today I had in mind to try another Orzo recipe that one of my colleagues had recommended to me for dinner. Oddly enough a portion of my afternoon was spent reading about  food in the form of Martha Payne’s blog NeverSeconds, I’m not sure if you’ve heard of it – it was for work purposes, just in case you were thinking I was just reading for my own pleasure. It’s the blog of a nine year old Scottish schoolgirl who, with her dad’s help, writes about her school dinners and rates them out of 10. Within a month her blog went viral around the globe and coverage of Martha and her blog escalated last Friday when her local council banned her from taking pictures of her meals. The censorship has since been lifted and she’s back blogging.

Martha Payne’s Pizza and Croquet school dinner

I’m still mind boggled at her success, how such a simple idea for a blog managed to grab the attention of thousands or people around the world. I guess it really does go to show that anyone can do it. You never know, maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough!

Looking at her pictures – in particular the above one of her school dinner of a slice of pizza, a few grains of sweetcorn and a single croquet – made me finally realise why Jamie Oliver is fighting so hard to improve school dinners in the UK. I guess in Ireland, at least where I went to school, we didn’t have school dinners. I always brought a packed lunch to school – which my sister used to kindly make for me while I fed the horse in the morning – and those people who didn’t bring their lunches bought something in the supermarket during the break.

Funnily enough I think the above picture of my dinner of Spinach, Feta and Cherry Tomato Orzo Salad looks slightly more appetising than Martha’s school lunch. The salad was really good and once again, so easy to make. I simply boiled the Orzo, while it was bubbling away I cut an onion which I fried until caramelised, chopped the feta, cherry tomatoes and some fresh basil. When the Orzo was cooked I added everything together with a handful of spinach, a splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, seasoning and to finish off I sprinkled pine nuts on top and voila, I had a healthy but delicious summer supper. Oh, and this time I only cooked 50g of Orzo, it made a bit of a difference!

I think I’ll be cooking with this new-found ingredient quite a lot over the summer, whether we have a warm or rainy one, at least I can feel summery in my dinner choice!


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