Wiping the winter cobwebs away.
As the weather starts to warm up, salads naturally put in more of a mealtime appearance. But while tasty, I’m rarely content with leaves alone, preferring to add a few grains that can bring texture, make a meal go further and keep me fuller for longer.
For this I like bulgar wheat, cous cous and rice, but pasta and salad are also old bedfellows, which makes the rice shaped orzo pasta another nice choice. This little pasta is silky and soaks up dressings and flavours a treat. And who doesn’t love a pasta salad?
I definitely do. Though this is a far cry from the mayo slathered pasta, cheese and tuna salad I used to scoff at college. On top of a jacket potato. Yes, I’d do double carbs, almost daily! No wonder if was a chunky monkey back then.
Happily, this is a healthier (and tastier) version of the student favourite, full of bright, fresh flavours and ideal to whip up for mid week evening meals, lunch boxes, or as a side dish for those summer BBQ’s you’re probably already planning (I know I am).
The flavours and textures are simple: fresh chopped spinach, soft roasted red peppers, juicy garlic king prawns and oven dried sticky cherry tomatoes with a really concentrated flavour, all finished with lots of lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Flavours that say goodbye to the cold and come-and-get-me to the warm summer days that feel just around the corner.
For two as a main or four as a side
- 300g orzo pasta
- 200g cherry tomatoes, on the vine preferably, or at least as red as you can find. I recommend make a larger batch of these, they store well in oil in the fridge and are great added to all kinds of meals like salads, sandwiches, hot pasta dishes and risottos.
- 10 raw king prawns, de-veined
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- A handful fresh basil leaves, chopped just before using
- 1 roasted red pepper — I used ones from a jar, they’re a brilliant fridge staple ingredient, finely chopped
- 50g fresh spinach, chopped
- Juice of 1.5 juicy lemons
- 100ml extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and black pepper
- Butter and oil for frying
- Start with the tomatoes — preheat your oven to 100°C, cut them in half and lay them cut side facing up on a lined baking sheet, bake for 90 minutes then remove.
- While they’re cooking, take your kind prawns and slice them through their centres, turning each one in to two — these make them curl up when cooking and a nicer size to eat in this salad.
- In a frying pan add a knob of butter and glug of oil, and heat until the butter is foaming. Add the prawns and cook for a minute, then turn the heat down a little and add the garlic and stir through, keeping them cooking for another minute until they’re pink all over. Add the juice of half a lemon and turn the heat off the pan.
- Cook the orzo pasta for around 8 minutes and drain and rinse briefly under cool water once ready, then put the drained orzo in to a mixing bowl and add the prawns and their lemony buttery oil, peppers, spinach, fresh lemon, olive oil and a generous amount of salt and pepper.
- Stir thoroughly to combine, then finish with the basil and tomatoes and gently stir through again. Taste to test the seasoning and adjust if needed.