The Beer Lover’s Table: Mediterranean Orzo with Prawns and Marinated Feta and St Bernardus Wit

Beer Lover's Table Claire Bullen St Bernardus Wheat Beer Witbier

Remember beaches?

The faraway ones, I mean. The ones that took a train and an airport bus and an ungodly early budget flight to reach? Remember the hassle of it all? The too-full carry-on bags and the boarding passes that wouldn’t scan properly and the obligatory Prêt breakfasts? Remember finally arriving, dropping off your suitcases, heading out of your Airbnb or hotel and feeling the sun of somewhere else on your shoulders? Sure, it was the same sun as the one you had back home, but it never felt like it.

I recall reading a tweet early in lockdown that said the author would spend £500 to drink a warm, crappy lager in any given airport bar. I understand the sentiment, now more than in April. Most of us cannot be in Greece or France or Spain right now, and it’s already the end of September: a summer has gone by without fanfare, without travel, without the beach. 

It isn’t the same as actually going to those places, but if you’re going to cook, you might as well make something that reminds you of the Mediterranean, of being not-home. For me, that meant this dish of orzo with marinated feta and prawns (no dummy prawns necessary).. It’s a riff on one of my most-cooked Ottolenghi dishes, though I decided to give it a more Provençal feel and added a couple heads of fennel, fresh cherry tomatoes, dill and a good glug of dry vermouth.

It’s vivid, brightly citric and herbal, but creamy when the feta starts to melt through it, the orzo the texture of a luscious risotto. It’s the kind of thing you should try to eat outside if the weather allows in these last slightly warmer days and, in lieu of ouzo or pastis, that you should serve with St Bernardus Wit.

After all, this isn’t just any old witbier: it was made in collaboration with Pierre Celis, the master brewer who created Hoegaarden White and also brought about a revival of the beer style. It’s as hazy and bright as you’d expect from the style, and I find its spritz of acidity and spice-driven character is an exact match with the vermouth, fennel and dill. It’s the kind of beer that you could drink, quite happily, on a beach towel. But then again, it’s the kind of beer that tastes good almost anywhere at all.

Mediterranean Orzo with Prawns and Marinated Feta
Loosely adapted from Ottolenghi
Serves 4

For the marinated feta:
200g feta
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, lightly toasted
½ teaspoon crushed chillis

For the orzo:
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
250g orzo
Fine sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 white/sweet onion, finely diced
2 heads fennel, trimmed and finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, lightly toasted
½ teaspoon crushed chillis
500g cherry tomatoes, quartered
600ml fish or vegetable stock
100ml dry vermouth, such as Dolin
400g raw, peeled prawns
Large handful basil leaves, roughly torn
Large handful dill fronds

  1. First, prepare the marinated feta. Crumble the feta into large chunks and place in a small bowl. Pour over the olive oil and add half of the toasted fennel seeds and half of the crushed chillis. Stir until evenly mixed and set aside. 
  1. Next, prepare the orzo. In a deep, lidded frying pan, add two tablespoons of olive oil and place over medium heat. Add the orzo and season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3-5 minutes, or until toasted an even golden-brown. Transfer the orzo to a bowl and set aside. 
  1. Return the same frying pan to medium heat and add the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and fennel and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5-6 minutes, or until softened and beginning to turn translucent. Add the garlic, lemon zest, orange zest, remaining fennel seeds and remaining crushed chillis, and cook for 1–2 minutes, or until fragrant. Add the cherry tomatoes, stock and vermouth. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. 
  1. As soon as the mixture begins boiling, add the toasted orzo and stir to combine. Cover with a lid and turn the heat down to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, pausing to stir once or twice, until the orzo has absorbed most of the liquid. 
  1. Remove the lid from the orzo and cook for another 1-2 minutes, until it no longer looks soupy and has a risotto-like texture. At this point, season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  1. Add the prawns and nestle into the orzo. Cook for roughly 3 minutes, or until the prawns are pink and cooked-through. Squeeze over the lemon halves and stir. Remove from the heat. Add the basil and stir through until just beginning to wilt. 
  1. Divide the orzo between serving plates or bowls and top with the marinated feta (drizzle over any remaining oil). Garnish with the fresh dill and serve immediately.

Claire M Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our award-winning first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is out now and available in all good book stores (and at HB&B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen, and for more beers like this one, sign up for our All Killer No Filler subscription box here.


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