Orzo seafood stew – a Ravinder Bhogal recipe

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For years, I took travel for granted, jumping from here to there as I wanted. I didn’t think of spending summer after summer in Italy, where I fell in love with ancient towns and winding passages, sun-drenched vineyards and crystal-clear coasts. Most of all, I fell in love with the complexity and exuberance of the food.

As a cook, I am often asked questions about my favorite Italian dishes. Most of them have been eaten in sober trattorias where the food is in season, prepared with fervor and served on plentiful platters. The measurements and portion sizes are at odds with the touching spirit of generosity rooted in the cooks there. I tasted delicious pasta of different geometries, salty seafood and memorable regional dishes, including the improbable crowd delight of sugo perked up by groves of forage snails in Tuscany.

But it was at a beachside restaurant in Trapani, when I was still sticky with salt after a morning swim, that I got a plate of food that I still dream of – zuppa di pesce so abundant with snow-white flakes of fish and crustacean crustaceans it was like an aquarium in a bowl, throbbing with garlic, chili and wine. The broth itself was so rich in good olive oil that I wiped up every drop with the rest of the bread basket.

As I brushed away the lees of my Negroni with its perfect curl of orange peel, I watched the watercolor view. Here, life was reduced to its best elements: sun, sea, good food and something refreshing to sip. We don’t really need much more. While waiting to be able to travel again, here is a seafood stew recipe inspired by this happy moment. The salinity of seafood cooked in saffron broth with orzo should offer a door of escape.

Orzo Seafood Stew

Ingredients for seafood stew with orzo arranged on waxed paper

© Aaron Graubart

For four persons

  1. Heat the oil in a large casserole dish or large deep skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, fennel and bay leaf and sauté until tender and translucent. Sprinkle with garlic, fennel seeds, saffron and chili and stir until fragrant. Pour in the wine, bring to a boil and boil until it is reduced to almost nothing.

  2. Pour the passata with the broth and 750 ml of water, bring to a boil, then add the orzo and simmer until al dente. It should take about 10 minutes. Add the seafood, cover and simmer until just cooked through.

  3. Season to taste, sprinkle with parsley and squeeze out the lemon juice. Drizzle with olive oil and serve immediately.

Ravinder Bhogal is the boss of Jikoni in London

Follow her on Instagram @cookinboots

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