Chicken in a pot with lemon and orzo

Chicken in a pot with lemon and orzo

A family favourite, this is a simple one-pot dish which brings comfort and joy, and it is my pleasure to share that with you.



  1. Untruss the chicken and remove all the string. If time allows, leave it on a board for 40 minutes or so to lose its chill. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4.

  2. Heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole with a tightly fitting lid; I use an enamelled cast-iron oval casserole 29cm/11½in long, into 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, and cook for 3–5 minutes over a high heat until the skin is richly golden. Then turn the chicken the right way up.

  3. Take the pan off the heat and, aiming for the space around the chicken, grate in the lemon zest, add the garlic and dried tarragon (or thyme) and give a quick stir into the oil as best you can. Scatter the vegetables around the chicken, followed by the salt and chilli flakes (if using), and squeeze in the juice from the lemons.

  4. Pour in 1.5 litres/2⅔ pints cold water – covering all but the very top of the breast – put back on a high heat and bring to the boil. Once it’s bubbling, clamp on the lid and carefully transfer to the oven to cook for 1¼ hours, though check to make sure the chicken is all but cooked through and the carrots soft.

  5. Take the pot out of the oven and add the orzo all around the chicken, pushing it under the liquid and giving it a stir as far you can manage in the restricted space. Put the lid back on and return the casserole to the oven for another 15 minutes, by which time the orzo should be soft and swollen.

  6. Remove from the oven and let the casserole stand, uncovered, for 15 minutes before serving. The orzo will continue to soak up the broth as it stands.

  7. Stir in 4 tablespoons of the parsley, and then sprinkle over a little more. Place a dish by the casserole, and then pull the chicken gently apart with a couple of forks, removing any bones and skin that come loose to the dish. I find it easiest to do this while the chicken’s still in the pot but, if you prefer, you can try and remove it to a carving board, though it’s likely to fall to pieces a bit as you do so. Stir the chicken and orzo again and ladle into bowls, sprinkling with parsley as you go. You may also want to offer Parmesan to sprinkle over: I prefer it without, but there is a strong pro-Parmesan contingent in my house.

Recipe Tips

It’s not in the spirit of things to be utterly 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 be between 1.5kg and 1.7kg. And although I have specified the casserole I always use, you obviously will use the one you have, which will make a dierence to how quickly everything cooks, how much evaporation there will be, and so on.

It’s also open to variation, owing to what’s in your kitchen. You can, for example, replace the orzo with rice if you prefer, although you need to know that it will be slightly puddingy cooked this way; I don’t mean this disparagingly, but to indicate the soft, swollen texture. Barley works well, too, though will need to go in sooner, or you can use ditalini or any other small pasta you want. If you prefer to use dried thyme in place of the dried tarragon, by all means do; I also like it with dried mint.