This recipe comes from the Ducksoup Cookery Book written by Tom Hill and Clare Lattin who also run the tiny Ducksoup restaurant in Soho. I have to be honest and say I would not have even glanced at the book if it hadn’t been featured in one of Waterstones monthly cookery book evenings. Clare and Tom were invited to talk about their book and offered us a couple of samples of their style of food. There are so many cookbooks around at the moment each promising something new, something fast, something different. I was prepared to be disappointed as I am quite hard to please these days but, even a small bite size sample of Tom Hill’s food had me sitting up and paying attention. So much so, that the next day I acquired their book.
Glancing through the book the recipe that jumped out at me was the Orzo Pasta with Spicy Tomato Sauce and Feta dish. The three ingredients that I was instantly attracted to – tomatoes, feta and orzo which is used in many delicious Greek recipes, but it can be very bland on its own, strong flavours are needed to bring the best out in it. The spices in this recipe do just that.
The original recipe calls for fresh large tomatoes such as Pink Bull’s Heart but as we are now in the depths of winter any chance of finding a fresh tomato with any flavour is pretty slim. So, I have replaced them with tinned plum tomatoes. I have tried expensive brands and cheap ones and find the whole affair quite hit and miss – I then discovered Mutti and tend to use them as, for the moment, they seem a cut above the rest.
The spices give a real depth to the dish and the tanginess of the feta lifts the orzo and tomatoes to another level. This dish for me is best served with a hunk of bread on the side and maybe it’s the Greek in me but also an extra slice of feta to complete this dish.
This is a very simple and quick recipe and one that I will repeat again and again, mainly because other than the fresh oregano leaves I generally always have all the ingredients in my cupboard and fridge. If I couldn’t get fresh oregano leaves I would still use dried oregano because they do add an important note to this dish.
Note on the Orzo – it does need a stir whilst it is cooking and if you decided to save on washing up by adding it straight to the tomato’s it will take a lot longer to cook than the instructions on the packet plus there is a danger of over cooking the tomatoes – the pleasure of this simple recipe is that there is still a little bite in the tomatoes as they haven’t been allowed to stew.
Orzo Pasta with Spicy Tomato Sauce and Feta
400g tin tomatoes (Mutti)
50ml olive oil plus extra to dress at the end
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp nigella seeds
1 small onion chopped finely
1 garlic glove crushed
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 bay leaf
1 tsp paprika
120g orzo pasta
100g feta or more
Sprig of fresh oregano leaves
Salt and pepper to season
Place a frying pan over a low heat and add the olive oil. Add to this the nigella and cumin seeds and cook for a minute.
Add the onion and continue to cook on low heat until soft. Add the garlic and chilli flakes, bay leaf, and paprika and continue to cook for a further 2 minutes.
Add the tomatoes to the pan, roughly breaking them with the back of a wooden spoon and leave to simmer gently for ten minutes.
Season with salt and pepper.
In a pan bring some salted water to the boil and add the orzo pasta. Stir. Cook for eight minutes or as instructed on the packet. When cooked drain well and add to the tomato sauce.
Allow to cook for a further couple of minutes and serve. Crumble feta cheese over the top and a few of the oregano leaves. The final touch is to add a drizzle of olive oil.