Simply food


There’s no reason to be afraid of risotto, but a lot of home cooks stay clear of it because it appears tricky. Here’s a great alternative.

On location with Dan at the St Lawrence Market

When we were making the second season of my television series Market to Table, I enlisted the help of Dan Frenette, a wonderful young Toronto chef. While we were shooting our penultimate episode back in 2017, that included juicy crackling skin capon and a succulent carrot risotto, he told me an amusing story from his early days as a young chef. Charged with making a risotto, he expressed some trepidation in tackling this notoriously difficult dish. “Just cook it,” the chef told him, “It’s just f***ing rice!” So, if you want to try Dan’s delicious risotto, please check out the episode. It’s great fun and Dan is an engaging presenter. You can also find the full recipe in Market to Table: The Cookbook.

However, for those who are still looking for an easy alternative, I’ve developed a dish that is so close to risotto that even experienced gourmands can be fooled. Orzo is an Italian pasta shaped like rice. The word actually translates as ‘barley,’ which it also resembles. It’s easy to cook and in the following recipe substitutes readily for rice.

Because I want to add a decent protein to my dish, and fish is preferred in our household, I’ve been to the market and bought a couple of monkfish filets. This fish is valued for its firm, lean, white flesh and mild, sweet flavor, without the fishy taste many people associate with eating fish. Monkfish is known as the ‘poor man’s lobster,’ since it tastes somewhat like the crustacean, at a fraction of the price.

I’ve checked every source I know, and as far as I can tell this is an original recipe. (If any of our readers know differently, please add a comment at the end!) An acquaintance dropped by while I was making the dish, and although she couldn’t stay for dinner, she did taste a good sample and pronounced it delicious. Suffice to say, there was none left at the end of our session


Shopping list

  • 700 g / 1 1/2 lb monkfish, skin, backbone and membrane removed, cut into chunks
  • 1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 TBSP tomato paste
  • 1 cup orzo pasta
  • 300 ml / 1 1/3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 packet (0.35 oz / 10 g) dashino-moto (dried bonito bouillon)
  • 1 tsp hot sauce, such as Tabasco, or Chinese chili sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro (coriander) or parsley, washed, de-stemmed and chopped
  • 1 fresh lemon

Preparation and cooking

  1. Prepare the fish stock by heating vegetable stock and mixing in the dried fish bouillon. Do not boil but keep warm.
  2. Prepare the fish. Ask the fishmonger to remove the central bone, skin and head. If they haven’t already done so, remove the grey membrane too. Wash the fish, dry, then marinate for 30 mins in juice of ½ lemon.
  3. Heat a little EVOO and fry onions, garlic and red pepper until tender, about 5 mins. Then add chopped tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir until blended, keeping everything simmering.
  4. Add monkfish chunks, discarding marinade, and cook on all sides.
  5. Add warm fish stock and stir everything well. Add the hot sauce. Turn the heat well down and simmer for about 25 mins, stirring occasionally. Add more hot sauce, salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil and cook the orzo pasta for 6 mins. Drain well and leave to drip in a sieve over the warm pan. When there are just 5 or 6 mins left for the monkfish and sauce to cook, add the pasta and stir in well.
  7. At the last minute, finish with the juice of the other half of the lemon
  8. Serve in warmed bowls, garnished with cilantro or parsley.
Featured image: Monkfish with orzo risotto

Please LIKE this blog, if you have enjoyed the article, or add a COMMENT — clickable at the top of each story. Click on the FOLLOW button at the bottom of the page if you would like to receive email notifications of new articles.

This is Nigel’s 335th blog on Gentleman’s Portion. The SEARCH function at the top works really well if you want to look back and see some of his previous stories, or check under CATEGORIES.

The link to Gentleman’s Portion: The Cookbook is now live, well priced at $9.99 or £9.99 and available on AmazonApple Books, Barnes & NobleGoogleKobo and Scribd.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.