Orzo & Squash Pilaf with Harissa Chicken Wings

  • Time: 2 hours
  • Serves: 4
  • Level: medium

‘This is good family food. All the elements can be placed on their own plates for all to serve them selves. The dish is a mix of North African and Middle Eastern flavours, all wrapped up in some flat bread, a dollop yogurt and little harissa chicken wings to nibble on – delicious.’

Leo Williamson
'My kinda' meal. Bread, chicken, yogurt, peas and pasta - all eaten with the hands. Seriously good food.'

What you need

12 chicken wings

1 store bought jar of harissa

Olive oil

Lemon

150g orzo pasta

50g puy lentils

150g chickpeas

150g broad beans

1 medium onion

Half a small red pepper

2 cloves garlic

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)

160g cherry tomatoes

Plenty of fresh coriander

500ml light chicken stock or vegetable stock

1 very small butternut squash – about 350g-400g

4 tablespoons toasted almond slivers

4 large flat breads or medium thick flat breads

Greek yogurt

 



Dad's Recipe Tales

I’m intrigued by orzo. That’s why I wandered up to the shelf stacked with several boxes of the stuff. I was in a local coffee shop. My browsing was spotted by the owner who came over to chat. It’s very good pasta he said – yes, but how do you cook with it?  The answer was a little vague but seemed to revolve around versions of soup and pasta dishes. During the conversation I learned that he was from the Middle East – so I was further intrigued to know if this type of pasta was particularly suitable for any regional specialties, but I did not get any immediate inspiration. I bought the orzo and mused over the possibilities as I ventured out of the shop.

Orzo – and its close relative risoni – is rice-shaped pasta. Risoni may be smaller than orzo but for the purposes of keeping things simple, I am not going to try to distinguish between them here and assume that they are interchangeable. The obvious use for either orzo or risoni – as my proprietor and all Italians will know –  is in soup, but there are many other shapes of pasta that will work in soup. I can imagine orzo in a pasta salad. But, I’m not satisfied – is there not something cleverer that can be done with it?

Barilla say to substitute it for rice in a risotto. So it seems that substituting orzo for rice could be the way to go in exploring new recipes. It occurs I could use it to make a paella, treating the orzo like fiduela (which fries pasta at the start of cooking).

I decided to use the fiduela method but for a pilaf. The frying helps to make the pasta stay as separate ‘grains’, but I also limited the amount of orzo and added plenty of other ingredients such as lentils and chickpeas. Then I put it on a flat bread with yoghurt and harissa chicken wings. It worked – I might dare show the recipe to my local coffee shop owner…

How Dad Cooked It

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C Gas 6
  2. Prepare and marinate the chicken. I have a cleaver and a thick red plastic chopping board on which I chop the chicken wings just behind the knuckle on the central piece and at the thin end of the thickest piece. The scraps go into a pan to make my stock. If perchance you do not have a cleaver, its best not to try to chop bones with ordinary knives, instead cut at the joint and discard the tip. Using a sharp knife, slash across the skin on one side of the wing pieces. Put the chicken in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of harissa, a glug of olive oil and the juice from half a lemon. Add a couple pinches of salt and mix the marinade into the chicken using your hands. Let this marinate for at least half an hour.
  3. Cook the squash. Do this while the chicken is marinating. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Place cut side up on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 30 minutes or until nearly done – i.e. tender but still quite firm. When cool enough to handle remove the skin and chop the squash into pieces.
  4. Prepare the pulses, beans and tomatoes. Pick-over and wash the lentils. Cook for 15 minutes or about two thirds of their normal cooking time. Drain. Use frozen or fresh broad beans – if they are fresh, but old and overgrown remove their sleeves – otherwise leave as they are. Cook fresh beans until just done. Put frozen beans in a bowl and pour over boiling water from the kettle. Drain when cooled. If using dried chickpeas follow the instruction on the packet for cooking – otherwise use a tin, and drain. (Left over beans can be put in the freezer.) Cut the cherry tomatoes in half.
  5. Cook the chicken. Time this coincide with baking the pilaf. Using a flat oven tray space out the chicken wings evenly and roast for 30 – 40 minutes until cooked through and crispy. Turn the pieces over half way through cooking. When done keep warm.
  6. Make the pilaf. Put the orzo into a non-stick pan with a teaspoon of light olive oil. Fry gently until golden brown and put aside in a bowl. Chop the onion, garlic and pepper. Cook these in stages in a thick bottomed pan. On a medium heat-high heat start to fry the onions in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. After 5 minutes add the garlic and continue to cook until the garlic has begun to soften and is releasing its aromas, then add the pepper and chilli and continue to cook for about 7 minutes. The onions should be soft, sweet and transparent. Then add the spices and cook these for a minute stirring all the time. Add the stock, orzo, lentils, chickpeas, beans, squash and tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Taste and season.
  7. Bake the pilaf. Transfer to a serving casserole or leave in the pan. Cover loosely with foil, and bake for 20-30 minutes. Check the orzo is cooked after 20 minutes – it should be al dente. If it has become too dry add a little more water. Let the pilaf rest (loosely covered) for 5 minutes.
  8. Assemble the dish. Heat the flat breads in a large frying pan and cut into quarters. Spread each with yoghurt, top with the pilaf and sprinkle with almonds and chopped fresh coriander. Serve with chicken wings, salad and lemon wedges.

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