On a recent trip to the market, I was sauntering around the stalls looking to see what was new. I wandered over to the butchers’ area, where one stall in particular caught my eye. They had a great selection of sausages and cured meats which I couldn’t resist! I bought a pack of salsiccia, a traditional coarsely ground Italian sausage made with garlic, fennel seed and black pepper. On the way home, I decided to make this light and tasty dish that uses the spring-like flavours in the sausage to their best advantage and pays homage to all the fresh spring produce that is being harvested at the moment!
I am not a very precise cook, and usually take no heed of measurements, but I have tried my best to note it all down. You will need:
75ml Vegetable Stock (I used a Kallo stock cube)
1 finely chopped shallot
2 finely chopped carrots
Finely sliced spring greens
Orzo pasta (this looks like rice but is actually just a rice-shaped pasta, most shops stock it – even my closest inner-city Sainsbury’s – but if you can’t find it risotto rice or even pearl barley will do!)
2 Salsiccia sausages (don’t worry if you can’t find salsiccia, just use normal sausagemeat or pork mince and add ground fennel seed, finely chopped garlic and coarsely ground black pepper to the meat)
1/2 tsp thyme and sage
Optional extras: a glass of white wine, finely sliced wild garlic, and grated cheese (preferably an Italian hard cheese such as parmesan or pecorino romano)
Prepare the vegetable stock if you’re using a cube. Then heat the olive oil (or whatever oil you have to hand) in a heavy-bottomed pan on a medium heat.
Add the shallots and fry them lightly until they are translucent. Remove the salsiccia sausage meat from the casings and add this to the pan (or a different sausagemeat/the pork mince and spice mixture, if using). Fry this meat like mince, breaking it up with your spatula if it sticks together, until lightly browned.
Add the orzo (or rice/pearl barley – for each of these I would use around a handful per person) and keep stirring it until it is well-coated in the shallot and meat juices and slightly translucent. Add ½ a teaspoon each of thyme and sage.
At this point, traditionally, you could add a glass of white wine to the orzo mixture and let it evaporate. If you’re not using the wine (I didn’t), you can add some of the stock instead.
Stir the mixture well until the orzo has absorbed the stock and then add more. Keep stirring and adding more stock (once absorbed) until the orzo is cooked. Just before you add the last ladle of stock (just before the orzo is completely cooked and still has a little bite), add the chopped carrots and sliced spring greens (or whatever green vegetable you fancy – leeks, broccoli or even asparagus would go equally well).
If you like, you could add some of the grated cheese at this point, but I prefer not to – it’s usually creamy enough for me without – and add salt to taste. Plate up and garnish with your wild garlic (if using).
I love eating this sat outside in the garden with a glass of white wine while listening to the birds and the buzzing of the bees!