After the indulgences of the Christmas holidays, when the Quality Street is down to the strawberry and orange creams and even the kumquat liqueur your pal bought you from their summer holiday has been drunk, you'd be right in thinking that, Chez Farrow, we look to lighten the load on the belt buckle and ease off the rich food.
Well, you'd be partially right anyway. What we still want, even as we slam the freezer door on the leftover turkey, is plenty of flavour, even if there is a shift to a little more lightness of touch. It is still going to be cold outside so we'll be on the lookout for tasty, satisfying and easy dishes to ease us round the corner of the new decade and I think that this recipe fits that bill. Yes, it's a pasta dish, but served alongside a zingily dressed green salad this has something sunshine about it, a Mediterranean pedigree where Spain meets Italy. And the pasta here is somewhat dainty, masquerading as grains of barley, hence the name orzo, and somehow doesn't seem to look as daunting as a steaming bowl of Bolognese or bubblingly cheesy lasagne.
With flaky fish taking a starring role, a base of summery sun-blushed tomatoes and the aromas of saffron and oregano wafting sunshine from every bowl, it is a dish that should lift the spirits while still keeping the cold at bay.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 120g chorizo sausage, diced
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 250g orzo pasta (other small, so-called soup pasta can be used e.g. fregola, stele, anelli, but may require a little less cooking time)
- 1 tbsp fresh oregano leaves, chopped (1 tsp if using dried)
- 150ml dry, fruity white wine or dry cider
- 500ml fish, chicken of vegetable stock
- 100g sun-blush tomatoes, roughly chopped (go for ones that are softer than sun-dried tomatoes. If you would like to use sun-dried tomatoes use 20g less as they are more intense in flavour)
- 4 skinless fillets of hake, about 175g each (use any firm white fish you like – cod, pollock, haddock etc)
- Pinch of saffron
- Salt and ground black pepper
- A handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- Lemon wedges
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan.
Place the pinch of saffron in a ramekin or other small pot and add a spoonful of hot water. Stir briefly and leave for ten minutes to allow the saffron to release its beautiful golden colour and aromas.
In a casserole heat the olive oil over a moderate heat and fry the diced chorizo for five minutes or so, until it releases its lovely red-orange oils and smoky aromas and begins to crisp.
Lower the heat right down and add the onion to the pan with a small pinch of salt and stir. After a few minutes add the garlic. Sauté over the low heat until the onion is beginning to soften, about 10 minutes.
Add the orzo pasta to the pan and stir thoroughly to coat the grains in the chorizo oil. Add the white wine, stock, saffron in its water, and oregano with another small pinch of salt and some ground black pepper. Bring up to a rolling simmer and then put on the lid of the casserole and put into the oven for 10 minutes.
After the 10 minutes remove the casserole from the oven and mix in the sun-blush tomatoes, then lay the fillets of fish onto the surface of the mixture. Replace the lid and return to the oven for a further ten minutes of cooking time, until the fish is cooked. The pasta will be tender too. If your fish fillets are particularly thick you might need another minute or two in the oven or resting with the lid on outside the oven, but don't overdo it.
Serve drizzled with a little more olive oil and with the parsley scattered over and lemon wedges on the side. All it needs alongside it is a zingy green salad.
With a dish like this it is hard to see past wines from Italy or the Iberian Peninsula. They match this kind of dish with élan. For a start, The Society's Falanghina 2019 is fragrant and packed with stone-fruit flavours easily capable of coping with the fish, herbs, tomatoes and saffron on show here. As is the Grillo Punto 8 Sicilia Ottoventi 2019 and Vermentino di Sardegna localia, Melis 2019, two delicious wines from Mediterranean islands with traditions of full-flavoured seafood dishes. From Spain it's a no-brainer to think of an albariño, perhaps the fresh and fruity Pazo de Villarei Albariño, Rías Baixas 2019, or the superb, more concentrated but invigorating Fefiñanes Albariño, Rías Baixas 2019. From Portugal the popular Esporao Monte Velho Branco, Alentejano 2019 comes from a ripe vintage and has depth of fruit and lovely freshness, while the judiciously oaked Adega de Pegões Colheita Seleccionada, Península de Setúbal 2019 out a red for this dish, pick something with a little lightness of touch and liveliness, perhaps a Valpolicella Valpantena, Torre del Falasco 2019 from northern Italy or the slightly richer Luna Beberide Mencía, Bierzo 2019 from northern Spain, both of which have bags of red-berry fruit and can be served lightly chilled. Finally, don't forget that rosés are just as delicious in the winter as they are in the summer, and perfect for this dish. From Calabria comes the full-flavoured, dry but berry-fruited Cirò Rosato Gaglioppo 2019, and from northern Spain the super-value, vibrantly coloured Señorio de Sarr?a Rosado, Navarra 2019.