Orzo & Sun-dried Tomato Salad

The other week I was in the UK and as usual got most of my lunches and dinners at Marks & Spencer’s foodhall. I only visit the UK about once a year, and over the past few M&S have both kept some of my favourite sandwiches, yogurts and salads in their food range as well as added some new ones. This time I discovered an Orzo & Roasted Tomato salad, which I liked a lot, so I took a picture of the ingredients label in order to try this at home.

This is nothing fancy, but but it’s really delicious. The funny thing is I never was a fan of orzo pasta – known in Germany mostly as kritharaki pasta or rice noodles – because as far as I remember the few times I’d had it at the cafeteria it was mercilessly overcooked and hence quite disgusting. I trusted in M&S’s ability to do it right, though, so was willing to try it 🙂 .

I got in all the ingredients, but noticed I had overlooked a few things that this salad required. The first one was slow-roasted tomatoes, but when I had the salad in the UK it actually tasted like sun-dried tomatoes, so this is what I got at the market. I found a Greek stall that has the best sun-dried tomatoes; usually I find the ones without oil are very hard and dry, but these are quite soft and almost juicy.

The other thing I had overlooked was basil infused sunflower oil. As soon as I realised it, I roughly chopped some basil, poured some sunflower oil over it, and left it to infuse for about 1½ hours. It had enough of an infusion for a first time try, and I made enough so that I’ll have some for next time.

The rapeseed oil that was required I just replaced with olive oil, and the last thing I’d missed was red onions, but I substituted those for white ones, using only ½ a a finely chopped onion so it wouldn’t dominate.

This salad turned out really well and, in fact, came quite close to the original taste-wise and looks exactly like the original. It’s very easy and quick to make, and all of the prep work can be done ahead. The salad is sold in the cooler section, but I found it more enjoyable at room temperature. That’s also why I let the orzo pasta cool down before mixing it with the other ingredients.

I’m glad I made enough for two because I had a nice lunch salad to take to work the next day, and I’m more than happy I took that picture of the ingredients list, because I know I’ll be making this often.

Orzo & Sun-dried Tomato

  • Servings: 2
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325 g Orzo [also known as kritharaki pasta]
1½ tsp turmeric
1½ tsp salt
1½ tsp dried oregano
1 red onion, finely chopped
½ red pepper, finely diced
60 g sun-dried tomatoes [without oil], coarsely chopped
a few chive stalks

150 ml sunflower oil
handful of basil leaves, roughly chopped
75 ml red wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp garlic paste
juice of ½ lemon
1 tsp raw cane sugar
olive oil

Start by making the dressing so everything can infuse while the salad is being prepped: in a sealable container, mix sunflower oil with chopped basil, seal and shake well. Leave to infuse for about 1½hours, or until everything else is ready.

Combine remaining dressing ingredients, whisk or shake well, and set aside.

Chop the pepper, onion and sun-dried tomatoes, then set aside. Cook the orzo pasta together with the salt, oregano, and turmericOnce done, let sit in a sieve until cooled down.

In a larger bowl, mix together the orzo pasta and the remaining ingredients, then mix in the vinegar dressing and a few tablespoonfuls of the infused basil oil. Stir, then add a little olive oil.  Cut up a few chive stalks and sprinkle over the salad before serving.