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Crimean Seafood Orzo

by Florian
Crimean Seafood Orzo

When thinking about Ukrainian food, seafood is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. We tend to forget that in addition to its countryside and its heaps of sausages and potato pancakes, its pierogi and beet soup, Ukraine boasts an important coastline on the Black Sea — 2,782 km, second only to Turkey. A good chunk of that coastline is located in Crimea, and the local markets and restaurants offer a decent, if not spectacular, selection of fish and shellfish. In beach resort towns like Yalta, vendors defy sanitary common sense and sell cooked mussels or shrimp on the street in the middle of summer, without refrigeration:

Yalta - Lenin Square - Shrimp

I wanted to make a dish that shows the potential of Crimean seafood, a recipe that would be to Ukrainian cuisine what Artic Char Vojvodina is to Serbian cuisine. The tomato-carrot sauce is inspired by Heston Blumenthal’s tomato compote. This is the longest part of the recipe, but it’s well worth the trouble. You could prepare a large batch in advance, keep some in the refrigerator for a few days and freeze the rest. The rest of the recipe can be completed in about 30 minutes.

Tomato-carrot sauce
Yields 4 servings

8 oz tomatoes
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 oz olive oil
2 oz onion, brunoise
3 oz carrot, brunoise
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground star anise
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 drop Tabasco sauce
1 /2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp ketchup
2 thyme sprigs, leaves only

  • Bring a pot of water to a boil. Make cross marks in the tomatoes with a knife, blanch for 30 seconds, then shock in a bowl of ice water. Peel, core and seed the tomatoes. Roughly chop the flesh and reserve. Place the seeds and membranes with the salt into a conical sieve over a bowl, and leave for 30 minutes. Push the contents of the sieve with a ladle a few times, then discard. Reserve the tomato liquid.
  • Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot, and cook for about 10 minutes until soft. Stir in the coriander, star anise and nutmeg. Add the tomato flesh, tomato liquid, Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup and thyme, then cook over low heat for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Reserve.

Shrimp and mussel preparation
Yields 4 servings

1/2 lb large shrimp, shell-on
1 tbsp olive oil
2 lb mussels
8 oz dry white wine
2 oz onion, sliced
4 chives

  • Peel the shrimp and reserve the shells. Keep 8 shrimp whole and cut the remaining ones in half. Season with salt and sauté in a hot pan with olive oil until brown on all sides. Remove from heat and reserve.
  • Place the shrimp shells, mussels, white wine, onion and chives in a pot. Cover with a lid and cook over high heat until all the mussels are open, stirring regularly. Let cool for 5 minutes. Keep 8 mussels whole, pick the others from their shells, and reserve. Pass the cooking liquid through a chinois and reserve.
Crimean Seafood Orzo

Seafood orzo
Yields 4 servings

1 oz butter
5 oz orzo
mussel cooking liquid
3 oz green peas
cooked shrimp and mussels
1 tbsp chives and parsley, finely chopped

  • In a saucepan, melt half of the butter over medium heat, add the orzo, and stir for a minute. Add half of the mussel cooking liquid and bring to a simmer. Cover with a lid and cook over low heat until all the liquid is absorbed. Repeat with the rest of the liquid.
  • Add the green peas, the cooked shrimp and mussels, the rest of the butter, half of the chives and parsley, and enough water to finish cooking the orzo. Cook uncovered over low heat, stirring regularly.
  • Serve the orzo in a bowl, top with the whole shrimp on bamboo skewers, and sprinkle with the remaining chives and parsley.
Crimean Seafood Orzo

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Crimean Fishcakes with Mussel Sabayon and Tomato Compote « Food Perestroika June 9, 2011 - 11:38

[…] another recipe made with seafood that can be found in Crimea: skate, shrimp and mussels. (See also my Crimean Seafood Orzo). Following Ukrainian cuisine’s propensity for all things ground, the fish and the shrimp are […]

Peter Dmytrasz November 30, 2021 - 09:34

This is more of a question than a comment. Our daughter has a Crimean friend, who’s a wonderful cook. Recently we found out both my daughter’s Crimean friend and I have a passion for shashlyk (Ukrainian spelling). Do you have a traditional Crimean recipe, as I couldn’t find one on the internet? Many from various middle Eastern, Indian, African and European regions, including Ukraine, but none from Crimea specifically. We were hoping to invite their family and entertain with a traditional grilled Crimean shashlyk meal. Also what Crimean sides would you suggest that are traditionally served with shashlyk?

Florian December 1, 2021 - 22:00

Hi Peter, I guess it depends whether the Crimean friend is a Russian, a Ukrainian or a Crimean Tatar. Russians in Crimea make pretty much the same shashlyk as anywhere else in Russia: usually pork cubes marinated in an acidic liquid (e.g. white wine) with sliced onions and seasoning. Tatars are more likely to make a lamb shashlyk with chunks of fat inserted between the pieces of meat.


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