the other day a while ago that I’d borrowed Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg Everyday! from the library (before tangentially enthusing about my love for Auckland’s public library system…) and tried the chachouka recipe from it, which turned out brilliantly. And then, aside from a brief (though enthusiastic) mention in a Sunday Smiles post, I never spoke about the book again, which could suggest that none of the other recipes appealed to me, or none of them worked. What actually happened is that I cooked several recipes, loved them all and had so many others bookmarked to try out that I realised that this was a book worth buying – it was clearly not going languish on my bookshelf, gathering dust. So that’s precisely what I did: I bought a copy. But I never quite got around to blogging about those recipes, mostly because I didn’t take photos – I struggle with savoury food photography because I’m not terribly imaginative and I’d usually rather eat my meal hot rather than having to take photos of it whilst it cools. And I’m also usually hungry.
I did, however, take photos of the creamy mushroom orzo, which was the second dish that I tried from the book (ages ago when mushrooms were still in season over here in the southern hemisphere… Good timing if you’re in the northern hemisphere though!). I love mushrooms and often cook them in a cream and wine sauce – my version of the French stalwart that is champignons à la crème. I’ve always served them with toast, and would never have thought to add orzo, which is a great idea – it makes this more of a substantial meal and more practical to take as a packed lunch (always a bonus).
I don’t think larger pasta would work nearly as well, it would over-power the dish in terms of texture (does that even make sense?), whereas with the orzo, this dish is still all about the mushrooms and the sauce, and the orzo is more of a background addition that fills it out. This is really a wonderfully comforting (but not heavy) autumnal or wintery dish. I really like the addition of the balsamic vinegar – it adds a subtle extra dimension to the flavours, and goes so well with the mushrooms. Since this recipe is very much made from scratch, I’m submitting it to this week’s Made with Love Mondays over at Javelin Warrior.
Creamy mushroom orzo
Adapted from River Cottage Veg Everyday!
Flavourful dark mushrooms, such as chestnut or field mushrooms, are best if you can get them – I used portobello mushrooms since I didn’t have much choice in terms of varieties. Do use a good quality balsamic vinegar as it will impact the flavour of the dish.
Knob of butter
4 cloves of garlic
Small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, to serve
150g orzo pasta (aka risoni)
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
½ tsp dried thyme
100ml dry white wine
75ml crème fraîche (reduced fat is fine)
1. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, ready to cook the pasta whilst the sauce is being prepared.
2. Brush the mushrooms, trim the stipes (stems/stalks) and slice thickly. Melt the butter in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add half the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until starting to caramelise and the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated. Remove to a plate and repeat with the other half of the mushrooms (doing it in batches avoids the mushrooms stewing in an overcrowded pan).
3. Whilst the mushrooms are cooking, chop the garlic cloves and set aside. Separately, strip the parsley leaves from their stalks, chop and set aside. Once the second batch of mushrooms is nearly cooked, add the orzo to the boiling water and cook for the amount of time specified on the packet until al dente. Drain as soon as it is cooked.
4. Return the first batch of mushrooms to the frying pan, along with the garlic, balsamic vinegar and thyme. Cook for about 2 mins, stirring frequently. And the wine and simmer until it has mostly reduced, then reduce the heat a little and add the cream, stirring until just starting to simmer. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
5. Stir the drained pasta through the mushroom mixture, along with most of the parsley. Serve immediately, garnished with the remaining chopped parsley.