Summer on a plate.
The Turkish tomato season is finally upon us. For each week that passes, the red fruits of all shapes and sizes become sweeter, juicier and tastier. And it’ll get better still. In a few weeks they can be eaten just as they are, like a fruit.
In the meantime, the tomatoes are plenty good enough for a decent chopped salad with a few other vegetables, and even fresh tomato sauces. With all due respect to the tinned varieties, some of which can be very good: Nothing can beat a tomato sauce from fresh, sun ripened tomatoes.
Today’s tomato-y lunch is one I’d set my eyes on a while ago. I recently visited London for the first time since departing for Istanbul in 2015. With a number of cookbooks from my favourite London restaurants having been released since last, I made sure I had plenty of room in my luggage to bring back a few. (I bought five…) One of them, Ducksoup: The Wisdom of Simple Cooking, was perhaps the one for which I had the highest expectations. And it didn’t disappoint. Simple, seasonal cooking with good ingredients and clever flavour combinations allowing the ingredients to really shine through. Just the way I like it.
This recipe is based on one of the dishes in that book. In the end, the flavours I desired were slightly different from those of Ducksoup’s recipe, but the core is the same: Plenty of tomato, orzo/risoni pasta and feta cheese. At the risk of stating the obvious: It was worth waiting for.
Lots of tomato flavour. Fresh herbs. Tangy yoghurt. Salty cheese. Olive oil. What more do you need when the temperature outside is rapidly approaching, perhaps even exceeding, 30C?
So make this when the tomatoes where you live are at their peak. And if you can’t wait: Cheat by adding a teaspoon or two of good quality tomato paste to the tomatoes and source the best cherry tomatoes you can find. Serves two for lunch.
Tomato with orzo pasta & feta yoghurt
Inspired by Orzo pasta, spicy tomato sauce & feta in Ducksoup: The Wisdom of Simple Cooking by Claire Lattin og Tom Hill.
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olivenolje, plus extra to serve
- 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 tsp Turkish chili flakes (pul biber) or a pinch of regular chili flakes
- 500 g fresh tomatoes, peeled and cut into rough chunks
- (1-2 tsp tomato paste + 0.5 tsp sugar (if your tomatoes aren’t sun ripened and full of flavour))
- 125 g risoni/orzo (sold as arpa şehriye in Turkish stores) or other small pasta
- 200 g fresh cherry tomatoes, cut into chunks at a diagonal
- 25-30 large leaves of fresh basil, roughly torn
- salt and black pepper
- 200 g yoghurt (preferably Greek)
- 50 g feta cheese, finely crumbled
- black pepper
- Fry the onion in the olive oil in a thick based pot or pan over a low heat, stirring regularly, until soft but not brown, 10-12 minutes.
- Add garlic and chiliflakes and continue frying for another 1-2 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and leave to simmer until the tomatoes have released their liquid and most of the liquid has evaporated, around 10 minutes. Season. Take off the heat.
- Simultaneously, boil the risoni/orzo pasta in plenty of salted water until al dente. You can also use other small pasta or even spaghetti broken into small chunks. Drain and mix into the ready tomato sauce.
- Make the feta yoghurt by whisking together the yoghurt and finely crumbled feta cheese with a fork. Season with black pepper.
- Mix the cherry tomatoes and torn basil leaves into the tomatosauce and pasta. Serve immediately, topping with the feta yoghurt and a good glug of extra virgin olive oil.
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Food from Turkey, the Middle East & beyond. 🇳🇴 in Istanbul.
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