Roast chicken with orzo

I love anything cooked with Kritharaki. This makes a nice Sunday family dinner. I sometimes make it with Hillopites (Greek noodles) instead of rice pasta – both delicious – but when Orzo is used, it’s called Yiouvetsi (Giouvetsi) Manestra.
Orzo is available in most delicatessens and large supermarkets, but I do prefer to use the Greek one, κριθαράκι Χόνδρο (thick orzo) if you can get it.

1 medium organic chicken
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper
A little ground cinnamon
1 tsp Greek oregano
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 large carrots, cut into medium slices
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp tomato purée
400g chopped tomatoes
1 glass of white wine
2 tsp sugar
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
1 litre of water
1 chicken stock cube
500g kritharaki/orzo
2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley + extra to serve
Grated Kefalotyri or Parmesan cheese to serve

Heat the oven to 180ºC / 160ºC fan / gas mark 4.
Squeeze the lemon inside and outside the chicken and season with salt, pepper, cinnamon and oregano. Place the chicken in a round or square deep oven tray.
Heat the oil in a large heavy frying pan and sauté the onions and carrots for few minutes, then mix in the garlic. Add the cinnamon stick, bay leaves and tomato purée, stir for a minute or two then add the tomatoes. Cook the tomatoes for few minutes then add ½ litre of warm water with the chicken stock cube, add the sugar and chilli flakes and pour the sauce on the tray with the chicken. Place in the oven and roast the chicken for 1 hour.
Take the tray out of the oven, cover the chicken with foil, add the rest of the hot water, mix the kritharaki around the chicken, season with a little salt, pepper and parsley, and return back to the oven for another 25 minutes, mixing the pasta after 15 minutes – if too dry, add more hot water. After 25 minutes the orzo should be cooked and should be moist but not wet; taste the pasta and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Remove from the oven, cover and let it stand for 10 minutes before serving – the klitharaki will continue to soak up the juices as it stands.
Carve the chicken and serve with the pasta topped with chopped parsley and grated Greek cheese and a green salad. Καλή όρεξη!

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