Mushroom Orzo

I always find it quite satisfying when I come across something to make for dinner which is the perfect balance of delicious to low maintenance, something which doesn’t require a tonne of new ingredients. However I suppose the reason I feel this way is because I am not a stranger to taking a trip to the shops with a grocery list the length of my arm. Sometimes though, after a day in the kitchen at work, simple makes a refreshing change –  and this is a really lovely dish, not to mention the perfect way to use up the last of that bottle of wine sitting on the kitchen counter!

Orzo, or risoni as the Italians call it, is a small rice shaped pasta. Here, it is combined with some nice mushrooms and a lightly creamy sauce to make a really tasty, warming meal for two. I like to use a variety of mushrooms in this dish, the more flavoursome the better! I chose a mixture of chestnut and enoki’s this time around. If you do the same, I’d recommend frying the enoki’s separately as they take a little less time to cook.

Mushroom Orzo – serves 2

2 tablespoons rapeseed or olive oil

a knob of butter

500g mushrooms, cleaned and thickly sliced

150g orzo/risoni

2 garlic cloves, chopped

a few sprigs of thyme, leaves only

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

75 ml dry white wine

50ml crème fraîche

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

a big handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley

Method

Put a large pot of well-salted water on to boil so that the orzo is ready to cook while the sauce is coming together.

Heat one tablespoon of the oil and half of the butter in a large frying pan over a medium high heat. Cook the mushrooms in two batches, using the remaining oil and butter for the second batch. You want to cook them until all the liquid that’s been released has evaporated and the mushrooms are starting to caramelise. When they’re almost cooked, put the orzo in the boiling water and cook until it tastes al dente.

Return the first batch of mushrooms back to the pan and add the garlic, thyme and vinegar. Give it a good stir and let it simmer for a minute or two before adding the wine. Cook for a few minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated, then add the crème fraîche, reducing the heat a little and stirring until it just starts to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

Drain the pasta as soon as it’s cooked and add it to the mushroom mixture, tossing it together well.

Serve scattered with lots of chopped parsley.

Know Your Etiquette!

Have you ever found yourself in the situation where you’re out for dinner in a nice restaurant or maybe at someone’s house, with a group of people you are less than totally comfortable with? Maybe they’re chatting to you in order to get to know you better, but in the process they’re looking at you a little more than is normal to watch a person just eating. This, in turn, puts pressure on you to do things correctly and not make an ass of yourself. So, to save you the bother of having to mentally calculate which glass might be yours the next time an occasion such as this presents itself, here is a nice little dinner guide, illustrated by the ever-funny Gemma Correll and written by Joanna Goddard, as seen on her blog, ‘A Cup of Jo’.

“If you’re a guest at a dinner party (pictured above), wait to start eating until the host or hostess takes his or her first bite (unless they absolutely insist that you start).”

“A funny tip that my grandparents used to tell us: The way to sit in your chair is to pretend a cat is in front of you, a mouse is behind.”

“Your wine and water glasses are to the RIGHT of your plate. Your bread plate is to the LEFT of your plate. If you remember that, you’ll never drink someone’s water or eat their bread again! (A genius tip from readers: To remember the order of the placesetting, think “BMW” — for bread, then meal, then water.)”

“Surprisingly, salt and pepper should be passed together, even if someone asks only for one. They’re considered “married!””

“Never intercept a pass. For example, don’t snag a roll out of the bread basket when it’s on the way to someone else. (You’ll just have to ask them to pass the basket right back!)”

“Scoop your soup with your spoon tilted *away* from you. And surprise! It’s fine to tilt the bowl slightly away from you to get the last drop of soup. But never blow on your soup or food. Even if it’s piping hot!”

“Always taste your food before putting on salt and pepper. It’s considered rude to assume the food is under-seasoned before tasting it.”

This is something, as a chef, I can relate to, so TAKE HEED please!

“When you are finished with your meal, your knife and fork should be placed on your plate diagonally from upper left to lower right (11 to 5 if you imagine your plate as a clock face). This is a secret code to the waiter (or host) that you’re finished.”

To read the full article, head over to Joanna’s website A Cup of Jo