Traditional Greek Orzo, the vegan version

Orzo, or kritharaki in Greek is traditionally eaten as part of a beef stew. Oven baked pieces of meat, with tomato sauce and orzo. Orzo is usually added towards the end of the cooking, when meat has started falling off the bone. It gets a delicious meaty flavour and mellow texture.

A vegetarian friend recently told us how for him, this is such a wonderful dish that it can stand on its own. Just remove the meat he said. Indeed, now that we are full into spring, maybe something lighter will be better.

This dish can be prepared in the hob, or you can finish it off in the over. We prefer the oven. You can serve orzo al dente. But we feel that there is something comforting in the soft grains, enveloped in tomato sauce. Also, although this shifts our recipe away from vegan, we would add some feta cheese. Take the orzo out of the oven a few minutes before it’s cooked. Crumble some feta cheese on top. Return to oven and bake for a few more minutes, until feta is melted. Trust us, this takes this recipe to a whole different level.
Feeds 4
2 cloves of garlic
1 medium onion
8 tbsp of olive oil 
200gr orzo
1 bottle of tomato sauce (passata)
1 bay leaf
1tsp dried oregano
1tsp dried rosemary
salt
pepper

Peel and finely chop the onion. Mince the garlic. You can use a cheese grater for both if you prefer.
In a medium sized pot, add the olive oil. Yes it’s plenty, to add flavour to the dish. In medium heat, gently fry the onion and garlic until translucent and slightly caramelised. Add the orzo and give it a stir, to cover it in the oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add the tomato, oregano, rosemary and bay leaf. Add 1/2 cup of water. Lower the heat and let the orzo cook in the flavoured tomato juice. Alternatively, cover and place in the oven at 180C. Check occasionally and stir, adding water if needed. When the orzo is cooked through, approximately 15 minutes later remove from heat/oven. Add the feta cheese if using. Serve with warm crusty bread for a wonderful, light spring dinner.

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