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Chicken In A Pot with Lemon and Orzo

by
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Introduction

This is a dish, a family favourite, that I cooked moreorless straight after I’d got off the plane after two months on the road, to signal and celebrate that I was truly home. It’s a simple one pot dish that brings comfort and joy, and it is my pleasure to share that with you.

It’s so hard to be utterly precise and specific with this kind of cooking: if you’re feeding small children, for example, you may not want to add the chilli flakes. Similarly, you may want to use just one lemon, rather than the two I like. Your chicken may weigh more or less: the ones I get tend to vary between 1.5kg and 1.7kg / 3½lb and 3¾lbs. And although I have specified the casserole I have used, and always use, you obviously will use the one you have, which will make a difference to how quickly everything cooks, how much evaporation there will be, and so on.

Don’t let these things trouble you unduly: this is a simple recipe that brings profound pleasure.

This is a dish, a family favourite, that I cooked moreorless straight after I’d got off the plane after two months on the road, to signal and celebrate that I was truly home. It’s a simple one pot dish that brings comfort and joy, and it is my pleasure to share that with you.

It’s so hard to be utterly precise and specific with this kind of cooking: if you’re feeding small children, for example, you may not want to add the chilli flakes. Similarly, you may want to use just one lemon, rather than the two I like. Your chicken may weigh more or less: the ones I get tend to vary between 1.5kg and 1.7kg / 3½lb and 3¾lbs. And although I have specified the casserole I have used, and always use, you obviously will use the one you have, which will make a difference to how quickly everything cooks, how much evaporation there will be, and so on.

Don’t let these things trouble you unduly: this is a simple recipe that brings profound pleasure.

Ingredients

Serves: 4-6

Metric Cups
  • 1 x 15ml tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 (approx. 1.5kg or bigger) chicken (preferably free-range and organic)
  • zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic (peeled and minced)
  • 2 medium to large carrots (approx. 350-400g / 12-14oz total weight)
  • 2 medium to large leeks (approx. 400g / 14oz total trimmed weight)
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt flakes or 1 teaspoon fine flowing salt
  • ½ teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 2 teaspoons dried tarragon
  • 1½ litres cold water in a measuring jug
  • 300 grams orzo pasta
  • 1 bunch flatleaf parsley to give 6 tablespoons finely chopped leaves, plus more to serve
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 (approx. 3½lb or bigger) chicken (preferably free-range and organic)
  • zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic (peeled and minced)
  • 2 medium to large carrots (approx. 350-400g / 12-14oz total weight)
  • 2 medium to large leeks (approx. 400g / 14oz total trimmed weight)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt or 1 teaspoon fine flowing salt
  • ½ teaspoon chile flakes
  • 2 teaspoons dried tarragon
  • 6¼ cups cold water in a measuring jug
  • 1¾ cups orzo pasta
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley to give 6 tablespoons finely chopped leaves, plus more to serve

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/350°F. Untruss the chicken, if it comes trussed, and remove all the string. Prepare the vegetables: peel and cut the carrots into batons; cut the trimmed leeks into smallish rounds, approx. 1.5-2.5cm / ¾-1 inch.
  2. Heat the oil in a large heavy-based casserole/ Dutch oven with a tightly fitting lid. I use an enamelled cast iron oval casserole 29cm long, in which the chicken fits neatly, leaving just a small space all around it to fit the vegetables later. Place the chicken in the hot oil breast side down to colour the skin; I do this over high heat for about 3 minutes, until the skin is richly golden. (If you’re not using a heavy based casserole, you will need the heat lower.) Then turn the chicken the right way up.
  3. Turn down the heat, or take the pan off the heat completely, and aiming for the space around the chicken, add the lemon zest and minced garlic (obviously some can end up on the chicken itself) and give it a quick stir into the oil as best you can.
  4. Scatter in the prepared vegetables around the chicken, followed by the salt, chilli flakes (if using) and dried tarragon.
  5. Pour in the cold water, but just add 1.25 litres / 5 cups first, and then, gradually, pour in the remaining water until the liquid comes up about two thirds of the leg of the chicken, leaving the golden breast clearly untouched by a small margin. Now add the lemon juice.
  6. Turn up the heat and bring the pot to a boil, leaving it uncovered. Poke the vegetables down with a fork if they bob up too much.
  7. Once boiling clamp on the lid and put into the preheated oven for 1 hour 15 minutes.
  8. Take the pot out of the oven and stir in the orzo, around the edges of the chicken, and then put the lid on again, and put the casserole back in the oven for another 30 minutes, by which time the orzo should be soft and swollen.
  9. Take out of the oven and remove the lid, then let it stand for 15 minutes, giving the orzo a bit of a stir to loosen any that has stuck to the bottom of the pan. The orzo will continue to soak up some of the broth as it stands.
  10. Stir in 4 tablespoons of the freshly chopped parsley, and then sprinkle over the remaining 2 tablespoons, and put more on the table to serve alongside. You could add the parsley once you’ve shredded the chicken, but it looks so wonderful in its pot, I love to bring to the table whole.
  11. To serve, put a small dish by the casserole, then strip off the meat from the chicken, removing the skin and bones to the dish. (For me, these bits are a particular treat: I live for the cartilage!) I find it easiest to do this while the chicken’s still in the pot, but it you prefer you can try and remove it to a carving board; go carefully as it’s likely to fall to pieces a bit as you do so. Stir the meat and orzo again before serving, adding more parsley as you do so, or let grateful eaters add their own as they wish. You may also want to offer parmesan to grate over: I prefer it without it, but there is a strong pro-parmesan contingent in my house.
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/350°F. Untruss the chicken, if it comes trussed, and remove all the string. Prepare the vegetables: peel and cut the carrots into batons; cut the trimmed leeks into smallish rounds, approx. 1.5-2.5cm / ¾-1 inch.
  2. Heat the oil in a large heavy-based casserole/ Dutch oven with a tightly fitting lid. I use an enamelled cast iron oval casserole 29cm long, in which the chicken fits neatly, leaving just a small space all around it to fit the vegetables later. Place the chicken in the hot oil breast side down to colour the skin; I do this over high heat for about 3 minutes, until the skin is richly golden. (If you’re not using a heavy based casserole, you will need the heat lower.) Then turn the chicken the right way up.
  3. Turn down the heat, or take the pan off the heat completely, and aiming for the space around the chicken, add the lemon zest and minced garlic (obviously some can end up on the chicken itself) and give it a quick stir into the oil as best you can.
  4. Scatter in the prepared vegetables around the chicken, followed by the salt, chile flakes (if using) and dried tarragon.
  5. Pour in the cold water, but just add 1.25 litres / 5 cups first, and then, gradually, pour in the remaining water until the liquid comes up about two thirds of the leg of the chicken, leaving the golden breast clearly untouched by a small margin. Now add the lemon juice.
  6. Turn up the heat and bring the pot to a boil, leaving it uncovered. Poke the vegetables down with a fork if they bob up too much.
  7. Once boiling clamp on the lid and put into the preheated oven for 1 hour 15 minutes.
  8. Take the pot out of the oven and stir in the orzo, around the edges of the chicken, and then put the lid on again, and put the casserole back in the oven for another 30 minutes, by which time the orzo should be soft and swollen.
  9. Take out of the oven and remove the lid, then let it stand for 15 minutes, giving the orzo a bit of a stir to loosen any that has stuck to the bottom of the pan. The orzo will continue to soak up some of the broth as it stands.
  10. Stir in 4 tablespoons of the freshly chopped parsley, and then sprinkle over the remaining 2 tablespoons, and put more on the table to serve alongside. You could add the parsley once you’ve shredded the chicken, but it looks so wonderful in its pot, I love to bring to the table whole.
  11. To serve, put a small dish by the casserole, then strip off the meat from the chicken, removing the skin and bones to the dish. (For me, these bits are a particular treat: I live for the cartilage!) I find it easiest to do this while the chicken’s still in the pot, but it you prefer you can try and remove it to a carving board; go carefully as it’s likely to fall to pieces a bit as you do so. Stir the meat and orzo again before serving, adding more parsley as you do so, or let grateful eaters add their own as they wish. You may also want to offer parmesan to grate over: I prefer it without it, but there is a strong pro-parmesan contingent in my house.

Tell us what you think

What 11 Others have said

  • Have set up an account with the express purpose of thanking Nigella for this recipe. It is AMAZING. I have cooked it at least 5 times since it was published and each time I am astonished at the flavour of it. The ingredients seem so simple but the taste is spectacular. It also makes enough to feed a multitude and with leftovers. Cook this immediately if not sooner. Adding some Parmesan at the end really is good.

    Posted by Losdelrio1 on 9th September 2019
  • This was INCREDIBLE. Anything I get to cook in a cast iron Dutch oven gives me so much joy! The chicken was so juicy and tender it fell off the bones and was so easy to do , I was in awe!! It not only fed me for days , it also fed my brother and anyone I came into contact with and each person commented on how delicious it was. Did not disappoint!

    Posted by Sookiex on 29th July 2019
  • Just made this today, on a cold, damp San Francisco day in May, for which it is just perfect! I am eating a bowl, couldn't wait for the 15 minutes after taking out of the oven. It is wonderful and comforting. My chicken was closer to 4lbs, and I had a 5qt. oval dutch oven or an 8 qt. The 5 was just too small for my rather plump chicky, so 8 it was. I feared it was too big and I'd need too much water but it was in fact perfect. Once you add the orzo, the pasta soaks up so much water and gives off starch making a creamy, lemony, yummy, soft thing of beauty. I followed the recipe this time (added an extra carrot or two and used thyme, don't care for tarragon, otherwise, spot on), but look forward to making this with variations pursuant to what I have on hand. I think it should always have lemon though.

    Posted by LucyinSF on 27th May 2019
  • Made this last night and it was absolutely delicious! The flavour combination of the lemon and the chilli flakes gave this dish a nice warm twang! Perfect for a cold autumn evening.

    Posted by LAURA_J_B on 26th May 2019
  • This was delicious, will definitely be making again. We had the Parmesan cheese too!

    Posted by Kellylimb on 19th May 2019
  • I made it tonight - what wonderful comfort food and the Parmesan absolutely takes it to another level! Everyone in my family loved it and I would definitely make it for guests on a wintry evening. I preferred removing the meat from skin and bone on a separate plate - as it was too tricky for me to do in the pot. Try this - you will not be disappointed!

    Posted by Marstar5280 on 23rd April 2019
  • I too saw this posted on Instagram and instantly craved it. Have just eaten a bowl (topped with Parmesan) and wanted to review. This is a super easy meal to put together - chopping the veg is as complicated as it gets - although taking the meat off the carcass once out of the oven is a little bit of a faff. Very tasty dinner that looks much more impressive than it takes to make it. Next time I think I would add the orzo later in the cooking time as I felt it was a bit over cooked. For reference, I used a round 24cm casserole dish and the label said the chicken was 1.8kg. Definitely more of a squeeze than Nigella’s picture here but fine all the same.

    Posted by CatherineTriesToBake on 15th April 2019
  • I love this dish. We are pro-parmesan as well so I like to stir in some parmesan at the end (like a risotto) which gives it a lovely silky cheesiness. Even better the day after!

    Posted by lollycat11 on 27th March 2019
  • I’ve been dreaming about this recipe since I saw it posted on Instagram! I didn’t have a casserole big enough so after buying my ingredients, I then went out yesterday and purchased a brand new casserole dish...I started thinking that this was proving to be an expensive dinner! I have just made it...it’s just resting for 15 mins and I’ve had a sneaky taste and by golly it’s delicious! So tasty and I can’t wait to tuck in with the kids at dinnertime! It was very easy to throw together too, which with two young children is what I need and I’m sure they will enjoy as the chicken is so soft and juicy! Will keep you posted on their verdict!

    Posted by Joanne_moore on 20th March 2019
  • Very easy to make, and this recipe could feed 6-8. Next time though, I’ll shred the chicken on a plate so the bones are easier to pick out.

    Posted by bunnyette on 18th March 2019
  • I was one of those people clamoring for the recipe! Tried it tonight and it was even better than it looked. it's comfort food but not heavy - tastes fresh and light, but the lemony, chicken orzo makes it so satisfying! Thank you for a new favorite.

    Posted by ahwiggins18 on 11th March 2019
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