Lemon orzo and rice with herbs and feta - the awesomest rice dish you'll ever have


Persian rice - you've just had your butt kicked, tahdig and all. This Greek style rice and orzo pilaf recipe was a new experiment for me, but I can't wait to do it again. And again. I can't see rice getting much more awesome than this although I may surprise even myself with my obvious talent for rice cookery. But for now this remains my finest hour at the handles of my rice pan.

Greek rice and orzo pilaf with lemon and feta

The recipe for this dish was a bit of a combination of different things I have seen online - originally I planned to do this in the oven with the chicken pieces cooking on top of the rice which I will try at some point. I can imagine the chicken juices making the rice even more delicious, although it's hard to imagine how it could be any tastier.

But yesterday I changed our dinner plan a bit because the weather was so gorgeous and I wanted to light the BBQ. We were out all afternoon enjoying the sun. We drove down to Runnymede to walk by the river, but actually it is a bit of a disappointing spot. There are much nicer walks along the river Thames. But oh well, at least we have now seen this historically important place although there is little to see. We walked on the vast open fields where King John signed the charter and visited the Magna Carta memorial. All that contemplating and discussing the importance of freedom and democracy made us thirsty so driving back into town we stopped in a little pub in Barnes. 

One thing that again baffled me though was the car park picnickers. I have seen them a lot in the various car parks of places we've visited, country parks, historic houses etc. People drive to places like this to spend their day sitting next to their car. Between rows of cars. Why? Why would you drive to a lovely riverside location or a country park and not walk the 50 meters to do your picnic by the river or in the park. Surely no one can be that lazy? You go through the trouble of packing your cooler bags with food and drink, you pack your folding chairs and a table in your car, then risk your mental and physical health on M25 to sit behind your car in the car park rather than the actual beauty spot the car park is there for. Oh well, each to their own I guess. 

So once back at home I quickly chucked the chicken in marinade. I should have done it in the morning, but it turned out fantastic although it didn't have long to marinade. I made quite a potent marinade of lots of lemon juice and zest, garlic, thyme, oregano, oil, salt and pepper and let the chicken pieces swim in it until the BBQ was ready.

But the star of the show, the belle of the ball was the rice. If you don't try this immediately you are crazy.

Greek rice and orzo with lemon, feta, oregano and thyme

Greek rice and orzo pilaf with lemon and feta recipe (serves 4)

1 1/2  cups basmati rice
1/2 cups orzo
1/2 leek
1 yellow onion
3 cloves of garlic
black pepper
2 heaped tbsp of fresh (or 2 tsp of dried) thyme
2 heaped tbsp of fresh (or 2 tsp of dried) oregano
Juice and zest of one lemon
3 cups chicken stock
100g feta

Rinse the basmati under cold water until water runs clear. Soak in salted water minimum 30 minutes. Drain.

Chop the onion and leek. Mince the garlic and herbs if you are using fresh herbs. Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a non-stick deep pan with a lid. Fry the onions and leek on medium heat for a few minutes, add the garlic and continue frying for another couple of minutes. Add the herbs, pepper, drained rice and orzo and cook for a few minutes stirring the rice constantly, stir in also the lemon zest and juice. 

Add the chicken stock and cover the pan leaving it bubbling on low to medium heat. Cook until rice is cooked but still a bit al dente. There should be no liquid left at this stage, if there is let it cook uncovered for a while. Then wrap the lid in a clean kitchen towel, cover the pan with it tightly and leave on a very low heat to steam. You can leave it for 10-20 minutes easily and it will be lovely, the key is the kitchen towel that will soak the steam and leave your rice lovely and unmushy.

When ready to serve check the seasoning, mix in the cubed feta and sprinkle some fresh herbs on top. I can imagine a handful of olives would be nice in it also.

Greek rice and orzo pilaf with lemon and feta

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