Mussels with samphire and orzo

MUSSEL AND SAMPHIRE ORZO

Juicy mussels surrounded by lemon, chilli, saffron and little pockets of creme fraiche. Like a paella, but quicker, easier and made with orzo pasta instead. 

INGREDIENTS (serves 4) 
400g fresh Scottish mussels
600g orzo pasta
1 green chilli
1 white onion
4 cloves of garlic
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 2 lemons
4 tsp Steenberg’s paella mix
1 tsp Steenberg’s lemon pepper 
2 pints chicken stock (or one stock cube in two pints of water)
200g fresh samphire
A handful of dill
A handful of parsley
4 dessert spoons Crème friache 

METHOD

Take a large frying pan and place on a medium heat with a drizzle of oil (I tend to use rapeseed as it takes heat well and is usually British). Chop the onion into tiny cubes and the garlic into thin slithers and add to the oil. Let them simmer for a minute or two. Finely slice the chilli into rounds and add to the pan along with a good pinch of rock salt and some cracked black pepper. Once the onions start to brown, turn the heat down and add the paella spice mix and the lemon pepper. Fry off the spices, turning constantly. Add the zest of one lemon, grated. 

Now it’s time to cook the pasta, and you can do this exactly like you would a paella. Add the uncooked orzo grains to the pan and coat them in the spice and onion mix. The grains will start to take on the spices and go a deep reddish orange colour. Once they are all coated, start to add the stock half a pint at a time, just as though you were cooking with paella rice. Watch out though, the orzo will soak up the water and cook much faster. In fact it only needs about 10 minutes cooking before you add the final touches. 

Once all the stock is absorbed, season well with salt and pepper and add the juice of two lemons. Add the raw mussels in their closed shells to the pan and after 3 or 4 minutes they will start to open with the heat, showing their lightly steamed meaty insides. At this stage you can add the samphire, which will really only take a matter of seconds to heat through. You want it to stay nice and crunchy. If at any point the pasta starts to stick  to the pan, just add a little extra water and keep stirring. 

Last but definitely not least chop the parsley and dill. Top the pasta with dollops of crème fraiche and a good scattering of the chopped helps before dishing up.