Haddock and spinach orzo

Oh, this could get confusing.  If a pearl barley risotto is called an orzotto, I really have to resist the temptation to call a pasta dish that looks like risotto and made with orzo (or risoni) pasta orzotto too.  More confusingly, orzo is Italian for “barley” but this dish is not made the same way as ris/orzotto, so it would not be an honest label anyway.

So, just orzo. I have read about it but not bought it, and don’t really remember seeing it in many supermarkets, so if you can’t find it, any small pasta shape will be equally delicious if not quite as risotto-esque in look.

We’ve been lucky to eke out a little bit of late summer in London, but today the clouds returned, and I believe the temperatures will imminently plummet to a more seasonal level, and this feels like a good bridging dinner as we ease into autumn.

This is a quick dish but does involve doing three things at once. If you’re not going to use the microwave to cook the fish, or at all nervous about doing three things at once, cook it before you get going with the pasta and sauce (poaching is simplest) to make sure it all comes together as the pasta is ready.

Haddock and spinach orzo
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time:15 minutes
Serves 2

300g smoked haddock
1 onion, sliced
1 clove of garlic, sliced
200g baby spinach, washed
200g creme fraiche, or a mix of cream and creme fraiche
150-200g orzo pasta, depending how hungry you are
Nutmeg to taste

Get a pan of water on for the pasta. The sauce will take the same time as the pasta cooking time, so you can do both at once.

While its heating, cook the haddock: for a dish like this, I use the microwave. Place the haddock on a plate and add a little bit (a tablespoon) of water. Cover with clingfilm and cook on a medium setting for two minutes. Check if it’s cooked through and if not, cook for another 30 seconds, and check again (the full cooking time will depend on how thick your fish is – I used a tail piece and it only took 2 minutes). Repeat until it’s cooked. Once cooked, set it to one side.

When the water has boiled, add the pasta and set a timer for the cooking time (mine took 8 minutes).

Gently fry the onion in a little oil. Add the garlic to the onion and fry for a few minutes more.  Add the wet baby spinach to the pan and move around until it wilts. Add the creme fraiche (or cream and cream fraiche) and a good grating of nutmeg, along with some salt and pepper. Go easy on the salt until you’ve added the haddock, as the fish may be quite salty already.

Once it’s all stirred together, add the haddock and break it up a bit with your spatula. Taste the sauce, and if you need to, add more salt, pepper or nutmeg to your own taste.

By now the pasta should be ready – drain (in a sieve, not a colander if you’re using orzo!) and add to the sauce.  Stir round gently and serve.

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