Mum's seafood orzo salad

Mum's seafood orzo salad

A Lot on Her Plate
Helen Cathcart

My mum got the idea of an orzo-based seafood salad from her seafood hero, the legend that is Rick Stein. But having made variations of it over the years based on what she gets fresh from her fishmonger in the seaside town of Deal in Kent, I think she can claim this particular version as her own by now. This is her standard dish for entertaining friends, and it always goes down a storm, thanks to the way she lightly cooks the seafood so that even when it’s prepped ahead and served at room temperature it’s absolutely delicious. You can adapt it according to what you can source and what you fancy – I sometimes add clams, cockles or little brown shrimp, and it’s also perfectly lovely with mussels.


Quantity Ingredient
200g cherry tomatoes, halved
extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
300g cleaned squid, (ask your fishmonger to clean it for you)
1 unwaxed lemon, zested and juiced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
10g pine nuts
5 spring onions, finely sliced
300g orzo pasta
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
12 raw king prawns, shells on
300g shelled, cooked prawns
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives


  1. Preheat the oven to 140°C.
  2. Coat the tomato halves in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, lay on a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper, and scatter over the thyme leaves. Roast for 1 hour, until slightly shrivelled, concentrated and softened. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  3. Now prepare the squid. Keep the tentacles whole, because they look good in a salad, but with a sharp knife, cut the body pouches down one side, wiping with kitchen paper, and open them out on a chopping board. Remove any left over membrane or innards, and lightly score with a cross-hatch pattern with the tip of the knife. Cut the squid into 5 cm pieces and put them in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper, and 1 teaspoon of the crushed garlic.
  4. Cover and leave to marinate while you prep the other ingredients.
  5. Put the pine nuts in a dry frying pan over a medium heat, and toast them until golden, tossing them in the pan occasionally. Remove and set aside.
  6. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the frying pan over a low heat, add the spring onions and cook for about 4 minutes, until they’re soft but not golden. Set aside.
  7. Cook the orzo pasta in a very large saucepan of boiling water, according to packet instructions (normally 5–6 minutes), until al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water. Transfer to a large bowl, and, once cool, pour over a glug of olive oil and fork through the pasta to separate the ‘grains’.
  8. Heat some more olive oil in a wok or heavy-based frying pan until very hot. Add half the chopped red and green chillies, followed by the squid, and cook, shaking the pan or using a wooden spoon to stir fry it for about 2 minutes. The body sections should curl up into tubes. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  9. Adding a little bit more oil if you need to, cook the king prawns in the wok or frying pan for about 4 minutes until they turn red. When they are cool enough to handle, peel most of them and remove the black intestinal tract running down the back of them with a sharp knife. You can leave a couple in the shell for presentation.
  10. Once cooled slightly, mix the squid, king prawns and shelled prawns, remaining chilli, lemon zest and remaining juice, parsley, tomatoes, pine nuts and spring onions into the orzo. Garnish with chives, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle over a touch more olive oil.
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