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A general new year gloom, post-holiday blues and then a damn arctic chill have left me turning to my kitchen for moral support. What I need is a hug, but failing that a bowl of delicious, soothing, warming food is a close second. And orzo risotto is something I can get onboard with, even on a busy week night.
At this time of year, food needs to tick some boxes:
- Easy to make – I commute and want to make fresh food when I get home that won’t take hours
- Easy on the budget
- Easy on the washing up
Versatile, tasty and ideal to melt
Comfort food is always better with cheese, so I was pleased to be able to create this recipe for Germanto – a Gouda-style cheese which means it has plenty of scope for dishes which call for melty cheese.
Germanto has been produced for over 30 years, and it is now being made available in the UK. You will see it in Sainsbury’s and Eastern European speciality food shops as it is made in Lithuania. In fact, do you remember that awesome hard cheese, Dziugas, which I discovered at the International Cheese Awards a few years ago? It is made by the same people in Lithuania.
Being a semi-hard cheese, Germanto is really versatile, and great to have in the fridge as a go-to. In warmer weather it can be served in salads and sandwiches, but here I am taking advantages of its melting qualities for this simple riff on a risotto.
A 100g bag of cubed Germanto retails for around £1.50 in Sainsbury’s. You can also get it in blocks and sliced. And it is all natural ‘proper’ cheese. Of course, any Gouda will work here too.
Orzo is about a quarter of the price of risotto rice at the moment (I paid just 60p for this 500g bag). Because it is a pasta, it releases starch as it cooks, which gives a creamy risotto-like finish. Of course, you could also make it as a risotto, but as a budget option, orzo is hard to beat. It is also quite fast to cook, so once you have prepped the veggies, you are looking at around 15 minutes cooking time.
Just like risotto, you need to keep your eye on this dish and stir often, but that is the most demanding thing that you will have to do. Plus, it can be made with just one large saute pan or frying and a jug for stock, so you won’t have much to tidy up afterwards.
I’ve gone bacon and mushroom for this recipe, but the cheese is made with vegetarian rennet so if you are a veggie, you are good to go too – just mushrooms will still be very tasty.
Creamy like risotto, but a fraction of the price, this easy orzo dish is on the table in under thirty minutes.
- 200 g orzo pasta
- 500 ml vegetable stock
- 4 garlic cloves – grated / minced or very finely chopped
- 1 leek – thinly sliced
- 1 onion – finely chopped
- 200 g mushrooms
- 100 g bacon – chopped or bacon lardons
- 60 g Germanto piquant cheese cubes, or other Gouda cheese – torn into pieces
- Butter optional
- Olive / rapeseed oil
- Salt and pepper
Get yourself a saute pan or large frying pan, prep the veg and make the stock. It doesn’t take long to cook so have everything to hand.
Heat the pan over a medium heat with a good slosh of oil. Add the onion, leek and a sprinkle of salt and cook for 3-5 minutes until it is nice and soft.
Add the bacon bits and cook for two minutes.
Add the mushrooms and garlic and stir through for another minute.
Add the orzo, and stir to cover with the bacon / onion mix.
Add approx. ½ of the stock, and a good grind of black pepper and stir well.
Add the remaining stock. Bring up to a rolling simmer and then turn the heat down to low.
Stir regularly until cooked. This takes around 10 minutes but will always vary so start to test around 7 minutes. If your pasta is particularly thirsty, don’t be afraid to add a little more stock, or water, if it looks to be drying out or sticking. Keep stirring.
Once the pasta is cooked al dente, taste and season as required. Turn off the heat. If you would like the full risotto creaminess, add a small knob of butter (around 1 tbsp), leave for one minute and then stir in.
Stir through the cheese, pop a lid on and leave for two minutes. Remove the lid, stir and serve.
A few notes:
- We love garlic! So of course do use less if you wish
- Germanto is a Gouda cheese, so use any similar if you can’t get any
- This makes two hearty portions, but will feed three easily if served with some broccoli or peas
Other ways to enjoy Germanto
- In a toastie – with bacon and chutney, or with some thinly sliced crunchy apple
- Melted into a chilli
- A warm tart (quiche) with a salad
- Jacket potatoes for an easy lunch
They also make dessert!
I’ve harped on about the company’s hard cheese Dziugas for a few years now, but it seems that they are also doing a cheese dessert bar. I first tried Magija at the International Cheese Awards with my blogging buddy Jane from Hodge Podge Days. We were intrigued!
This little chocolate covered snack is actually fresh curd, mixed with cocoa and coated in chocolate. Basically it is like having a handy snack-sized cheesecake in your lunch box! I really like it, it feels much lighter than a slice of actual cheesecake and it has a fresh tang from the curd. It is being listed in Sainsbury’s now, so let me know what you think if you try it.
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