‘Each day had a tranquility a timelessness about it so that you wished it would never end. But then the dark skin of the night would peel off and there would be a fresh day waiting for us glossy and colourful as a child’s transfer and with the same tinge of unreality’ – Gerald Durrell. I first read this passage whilst sitting outside a waterside taverna in the tiny fishing village of Loggos which quietly sits within a tiny natural harbour surrounded by an azure sea. It’s a perfect place to turn the noise of the world to silent for a few hours, listening to the colourful fishing boats slowly chug in and out, watching people arrive and leave like gentle little waves or to read a book whilst idly contemplating where go for dinner. There are a very few tavernas to choose from here but they are all beautiful in their unique way and they all thrive despite their determination to deliver authentic Greek cooking that in no way panders to the whims of tourists. This beautiful little dish of goodness is a great example of that. At its heart is kritharaki, the Greek version of orzo pasta which greedily drinks up the glorious flavours of wild oregano, dill and lemon.
2 tbsp Kalamata extra-virgin olive oil
1 large white onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1.5 tbsp tomato purée
1 tbsp dried wild oregano
30g fresh dill, finely chopped (or 1 generous tsp dried dill tops)
x2 400g tins good quality plum tomatoes
150g Kalamata olives, pitted
300g kritharaki (you can also use orzo pasta)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to your taste
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Crushed chilli flakes, for garnishing (optional)
How I make it
In a large frying pan, heat the oil and gently fry the onions and garlic for around 10 minutes until they’re soft and translucent.
Add the tomato purée and stir around for a minute. Add the herbs (reserving a little dill for garnishing) and stir everything together for a another minute.
Add the tomatoes (roughly breaking them down with the back of a spoon) and the olives, turn down the heat right down and leave to gently simmer gently for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, cover the kritharaki with boiling water. Simmer for seven minutes (the texture should be al dente). Drain and stir into the tomato sauce. Add the lemon juice and season to your taste.
Drizzle with olive oil, scatter over the feta cheese and garnish with the lemon zest, a scattering of fresh dill and chilli flakes (if using). Take straight to the table and serve with a basket of freshly baked rustic bread, a classic Greek salad and, naturally, several frosted glasses of retsina.