A warm meal for a cold night

Winter often gets a bad press and cuddled up here under a blanket today, whilst it’s snowing outside and struggling to reach 17 degreesĀ inside (with the heating on full blast), I’m inclined to agree.

But there’s also a lot to celebrate about the colder months of the year – an excuse for a Sunday morning lie-in under the feather duvet, cosy evenings in, amazing knitwear, the aforementioned blanket and of course, warm, comforting foods that would be too rich for the warmer months.

As my kitchen is unheated, weekday meals are often quick affairs, so I can scurry out into the heated dining room as soon as I’m done – or during the cooking process if I have to! This orzotto is a dish born out of the need for speed and deep, wintery flavours on a cold winter’s work night.

I have to say a massive thanks to Diana Henry for switching me on to the glory of orzotto – quicker, more satisfying and just generally better (I think) than a risotto, and no stirring! I implore you to look out her book Simple and cook her orzotto dish, it’s magnificent.

NB a quick note on stock – you can make this from a stock cube, but liquid stock does seem to make a better dish. If you’re buying stock from the supermarket it can be quite salty, so don’t add salt until you’ve tasted the dish at the very end (after you’ve put the cheese in).

You can use blue cheese or gruyere to change the taste. If you’re using blue, cut to 40g and taste, then add to taste as it can overpower.

Mushroom, walnut and Truffle Orzotto
Serves 2 – prep 5 min – cook 20 min

  • 750ml chicken stock (use veg stock to make veggie)
  • 1 tbsp of light olive oil or sunflower oil
  • 1 punnet chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 banana shallot, diced fine
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced fine
  • Ā½ tsp dried thyme
  • 200g orzo pasta
  • 80g finely grated Parmeasan Salt and black pepper
  • Truffle oil – to drizzle
  • 20g walnut pieces, chopped roughly

1. Put the stock in a pan and bring to the boil, keep simmering until needed (pop a lid on so it doesn’t evaporate).

2. Put a medium sized frying pan on a medium heat and add the oil, once it’s hot add the mushrooms and fry until they begin to take on a bit of colour – this is important as it adds a great taste to the overall dish.

3. Turn down the heat to low and add the butter and shallots, fry till soft and then add the garlic. Fry for another couple of minutes, stirring so the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the thyme.

4. Add the orzo and stir round, then add half the stock and turn up the heat to medium to keep it bubbling – you want quite a rapid bubble as you’re cooking pasta, so same(ish) rules apply here. Stir every now and then. Cook for as long as the packet says – I’ve had orzo that cooks in four minutes and some that refuses to soften for 12 minutes (no matter what the packet says!). You want an al dente texture on the pasta (or whatever suits you). You may need to add more stock (and add some water if you go through the 750ml). Add the extra stock/water in stages so you don’t get left with too much liquid in the final dish.

5. Once the orzo is al dente and most of the stock has been absorbed (you want it the same consistency as risotto), stir in the cheese and then add salt and pepper to taste (you’ll probably not need the salt). Plate (or bowl is better) and drizzle over as much truffle oil and walnuts as you like.

6. Serve with a bowl of simply dressed watercress if you want to up the veg! Enjoy.