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Orzo Roast Chicken Recipe
Orzo is an oval shaped pasta and is similar to a grain of rice but a little larger. It takes its name from the Italian for barley and is also known as risoni which means big rice. Outside of Italy it is also know as kritharáki and manéstra in Greek cooking, arpa şehriye in Turkish cooking and lisān al-`uṣfūr in Arab cooking. It was originally made with barley but is now a hard wheat semolina and is typically used in soups and stews.
I buy my Orzo from the Turkish Grocery store on my Street in North London, an area where independent grocers are typically Greek and Turkish. I can normally pick up three packets for £1 and this makes it a very economical pasta to use. As well as this recipe with Roast Chicken, simply boiled Orzo mixed with green pesto and served cold with crumbled feta cheese makes a great summer BBQ side dish.
I picked up this recipe from my friend Con, a Greek Austrailian who lived with us for a few years in the early naughties. SInce then I have taken his recipe and added to it over the years and I think I now have a recipe for a lovely alternative to a traditional Sunday roast dinner and it can be enjoyed at any time of the year.
Preparation 20 mins
Cooking time approx 1 hour 30 mins (depending on the size of your chicken)
1 Medium Chicken to serve 4
1 cup Orzo pasta
Mild light Olive Oil
For the Greek Salad
Baby plum tomatoes
Black pitted Olives
Extra virgin olive oil
Rustic bread to serve
1. Pre heat the oven to 180°C
2. Un-truss your chicken and place in a roasting tin. If the legs remain tied together the dark meat in the thighs and legs may be slightly undercooked. By opening up your chicken to the full heat of the oven it should cook evenly.
3. Rub the chicken with a mild light olive oil and add oregano, salt and pepper.
4. Pour 1 cup of water into the roasting tin, cover with foil and put in the oven for 1 1/2 hours. (adjust cooking times according to the size of your chicken, it should be uncovered for the last half an hour to let the skin crisp.)
TIP: By adding water to your roasting tin the bird should remain moist as it will help to steam the meat. It will also then make a lovely stock to add to your pasta later on.
5. Whilst the chicken is roasting prepare the greek salad. Roughly chop the cucumber, red onion and feta into similar sized pieces. Put in a bowl with whole baby plum tomatoes and pitted black olives, drizzle over extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with oregano. Refrigerate until needed.
TIP: Don't make your greek salad pieces too big as it works best when you load a little bit of everything onto your fork at the same time, if it's all too big you'll make a mess!.
A greek salad is a personal taste salad, leave out the olives if you don't like them, the salad still works very well.
I prefer not to slice the tomatoes as I don't like it when the juice mingles with the oil and coats the cheese. I love it when I bite into a baby tom and the flavour explodes in my mouth alongside the feta, cucumber and onion.
6. When there's half an hour cooking time left for the chicken bring 200ml slightly salted water to the boil and add the Orzo pasta.
7. Add 4 tblsp tomato paste, season with 1/2 tsp garlic salt, 1 tsp oregano, salt and pepper and simmer.
TIP: You need to keep an eye on the orzo, boil the kettle so that you have hot water ready to add to the pan as the pasta will absorb all the liquid and it will need topping up. Keep it moving by stirring otherwise it will stick to the bottom of the pan.
8. Remove the chicken from the oven, uncover and carefully pour the juices from the roasting tin into the orzo pasta pan and stir. Turn up the temperature in the oven to 200°C and return the chicken to the oven for a further 30 minutes or until golden brown and the skin is crispy.
9. When the chicken is cooked remove from the oven and place on a chopping board to rest ready for carving. Pour the remaining juices into the Orzo pasta.
TIP: Keep tasting the orzo to make sure that it is cooked to your liking and also for taste. Add more tomato puree, seasoning and garlic salt little by little until both taste and texture is perfect for you.
10. As the Orzo thickens, and the liquid is reduced, carve the chicken. Plate up a few spoons of pasta and top with the sliced chicken, add a little crispy skin if you like. Serve with Greek salad and some rustic bread.