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Nigel Slater’s orzo with guanciale and rice pudding recipes


Fond as I am of a tangle of fettuccine, a bowl of steaming basmati or a plump pillow of tortellini, there is something even more pleasing about small grains of starch that have soaked up a delicious liquid, such as an aromatic stock, a pool of cream or the juices of a casserole. It is a satisfaction you don’t get with ribbons or shells, twists or tubes of pasta or, indeed, with long grain rice. I am talking of tiny, rice-shaped orzo swollen with chicken broth, smooth, round grains of arborio rice plump with sweet milk, or perhaps mograbia, the giant couscous, round and heavy with the spice-freckled gravy from a tobacco-hued stew.

Orzo is the most used pasta in this kitchen. It is the best for clear soups – it actually stays in the bowl of the spoon – and doesn’t go flabby like some of the larger, thicker shapes. Whisper it, but I prefer it to carnaroli or arborio in a risotto, though I rarely call the result orzotto. These little shapes double in size when cooked with sauce, but they are often at their most satisfying when plumped up with fat from frying pancetta or, my new favourite, the more aromatic guanciale. They are juicy rather than wet, and the fat lends a silky note.

Rice pudding is surely the most calming of puddings. The round grains grow fat in a way that spiky basmati never can. Swollen with milk and sugar, and hiding under a puffed and golden tent of toasted skin, they are nannying enough, but most will probably admit to adding a spoonful of something or other too – a dollop of blackcurrant jam to be swirled in a purple ribbon through the cream or a glistening pool of golden syrup or honey. I prefer something tart and fresh-tasting rather than sweet with my warm rice. The saffron-coloured seeds of passion fruit will brighten things up, even more so when they are freckled with the finely grated zest of an orange. Entirely personal I know, but I like my rice pudding on the milky side rather than the sort that can hold its shape on a spoon. Each to their own.

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Orzo with guanciale and kale

Pancetta, bought in the slab and cut into cubes, works well here, too, but guanciale offers a less salty and, to my mind, more interesting note. I suggest using kale, but only the tiniest, youngest leaves that lie deep inside each head. The larger ones we cooked in olive oil and vegetable stock then tossed with olive oil, lemon and the smallest of capers and ate them cold the next day. Serves 2

shallots 2, medium
olive oil 2 tbsp
garlic 3 cloves
guanciale 175g
kale 50g, young leaves pulled from their stalks (prepared weight)
orzo 300g
chicken stock 700ml
parmesan 4 tbsp grated

Peel and finely chop the shallots. Warm the olive oil in a shallow pan, stir in the chopped shallots and cook over a low to moderate heat for 8-10 minutes, until translucent.

Peel and thinly slice the garlic and set aside. Shred the guanciale into 1cm strips. Wash the kale leaves.

Stir the orzo into the shallots then pour in the chicken stock, bring to the boil then lower the heat to a simmer. Leave the orzo to cook for 8 minutes.

In a second shallow pan, fry the strips of guanciale over a low to medium heat until lightly crisp and the fat has melted, then stir in the sliced garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the torn kale, tossing it in the hot fat for 1 minute or until it softens.

Stir the kale and guanciale into the orzo followed by the grated parmesan and serve immediately.

Baked rice with ginger and passion fruit

‘Rice pudding will be ready in its own time’: baked rice with ginger and passion fruit.



‘Rice pudding will be ready in its own time’: baked rice with ginger and passion fruit. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

The ginger imbues the rice and milk with a subtle warmth, but also introduces a little extra sweetness. With this in mind I have kept the additional sugar on the low side.

The baking time here is approximate. Rice pudding will be ready in its own time and will thicken or not as the mood takes it. The good thing is that such a pudding is also good-natured, and won’t mind waiting in a switched-off oven for when we are ready to serve it. Serves 4

green cardamom pods 6
milk 1 litre
bay leaves 2
vanilla pod 1, split lengthways
butter 30g
pudding rice 80g, short grain
caster sugar 3-4 tbsp
stem ginger in syrup 75g
passion fruit 4
clementine 1
clotted cream 150g

Set the oven at 140C/gas mark 1.

Break open the cardamom pods and remove the tiny brown-black seeds. Grind them finely using a spice mill or pestle and mortar. Pour the milk into a saucepan. Add the ground cardamom, bay leaves, vanilla pod split in half lengthways and the butter, and bring to the boil.

Put the pudding rice and caster sugar in a baking dish then, as the milk comes to the boil, pour it over the rice and stir to mix. Slice the pieces of stem ginger into coins, about 3 slices per lump of ginger, then distribute among the rice and milk. Put into the preheated oven and bake for 2 hours or until the rice is soft and the skin is pale gold in colour and puffed up.

Halve the passion fruit and squeeze the seeds and juice into a small bowl. Finely grate the zest from the clementine and stir most of it into the passion fruit.

At the table, serve the rice pudding, breaking through the skin with a spoon and adding spoonfuls of the clotted cream. Trickle the passion fruit and clementine over the clotted cream and let it melt into the hot rice below.

Follow Nigel on Twitter @NigelSlater





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