Greek chicken and rice one pot wonder and return from the village inthe woods


I made this fantastic Greek inspired one pot marvel for husband as an "Isn't it nice to have your lovely wife back" dinner last night. He agreed that it was nice and wife indeed is lovely. After two helpings he declared that "This food is very good". It is a pretty easy dish to prepare and full of taste with lemon and fresh herbs.

I had been away for a week visiting my parents in the little village where they live in the middle of the Finnish lakeland. Or they live there just some of the time, they have an escape place in the town nearby when the village just gets too much. Or too little. It's a strange place, calming, heartwarming and ever-so-slightly depressing at the same time.

View to the lake and village from my parents' house
The village has less than 800 inhabitants and they are spread far and wide. The centre (there is no high street, just a little square by the "town" hall, the wall of which my brother bicycled into full speed 40 odd years ago whoopsidaisies) consists of two pubs (one is apparently closing down and the other one only opens for summer), a bank (open only once a week on order), library (open two days a week) and a shop (open every day, hurrah!). That's pretty much the service provision. There is a small school and a daycare centre (with 9 kids in! although at least three belong to the lady who runs it), a care home for old people (that one's quite busy) and two large graveyards.

The accounting needs of the villagers are well taken care of however. There are two accountants, one interestingly also sells eco-knitware made from dog and alpaca hair in case you're interested in an orange poncho made of doghair. From an orange dog presumably. Apparently doghair garments are particularly great for people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.

I love the crazy village with all my heart. My family from my mother's father's side have lived there for hundreds of years, as far as the church records go and probably longer. The farm where my grandfather's family have lived for generations still stands carrying my mother's maiden name.

People are mostly known by their trade, like Apothecary (retired), Library Miss (coincidentally an overweight middle-aged man), Sacristan (yes - it is a job), Composer (the village's only celebrity - he's moved away now to a more vibrant artist community, a less vibrant artist community would have been impossible to find).

The river connecting the two lakes that surround the village

Or they are known by a nickname based on a background story and the person in question might not know what they are actually called behind their back. I don't know for instance what my parents are called. Or me. Do I have a name!? Maybe "Glamorous lady" or "Hot city chick". Or maybe "Crazy woman talking to her dog".

When she was a child my mum was called Big Scale Head, as in scales and weights, maybe because of her big head or severe haircut, or because her father was the shopkeeper (or managing director of the co-op, if you ask my mother) and her younger sister was Small Scale Head.

An example of a storybased name is Pyromaniac. He got his name after he burned down his own house. He was new to the village and had just build a big beautiful house across the lake from my parents. On Christmas Eve my sister-in-law was outside with the dogs and came in telling that the guy across the lake had some awesome outdoor candles going. Turned out it wasn't candles so much as the house itself. Pyromaniac also known as Arsonist had had an argument with the wife known as Pyromaniac's wife. Wife had left to stay with her mother in the next village, Pyromaniac had passed out with some candles on and something caught fire. Pyromaniac woke up luckily. FireBrigade managed to save some of the house, wife came back eventually and they rebuilt the house. A happy ending.

Another story that comes to mind is of a lady now known as Judas Iscariot. She embezzled some money from the council, I used to think it was the parish and hence the biblical naming, but no, it was the council. She lost her job as a result. She was then given a job in the local pub and shop combo The Sunken Log and M-Market. A job with less access to cash might have been a better idea. She did some more embezzling, lost her job again and is now mainly drinking beer in the other pub, the Pit Stop. Not so welcome in the Sunken Log, I presume. Once Pit Stop closes she's screwed. Only one of the many sad stories of the village. There was also the guy who put an iron bar in his boot, took his boat to the lake and jumped.

Chicken, rice and orzo with fresh herbs, feta and olives

Recipe: Rice, orzo and chicken one pot wonder

For the chicken:
500-600g chicken - I had skin-on, bone-in thighs
1 tbsp chopped fresh or 1 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp chopped fresh or 1 tsp dried oregano
Zest and juice of one lemon
2 large minced garlic cloves
1 tsp salt
black pepper
1 tbsp oil

For the orzo-rice:
3 shallots or one onion
1/2 bell pepper, yellow or red
3/4 cup long grain rice
1/2 cup orzo
1/2 cup of olives (preferably kalamata)
2 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp chopped fresh or 1 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp chopped fresh or 1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt (depending on how salty your stock is - taste!)
black pepper

To finish:
100g feta
Fresh herbs
Lemon slices

Mix the chicken and marinade ingredients. Let marinade for a few hours or overnight in the fridge. If in hurry, let marinade in room temperature for half an hour.

Preheat oven to190C.

Chop your shallots or onion and peppers.

Heat some oil in a deep lidded pan and saute the onions for a few minutes, then add all the rest of the ingredients and bring to boil. Add the marinated chicken thighs on top and pour over any leftover marinade.

Cover the pan and place in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Then remove the lid, check the liquid and add a little bit if it looks too dry. I put the broiler on as well to get some colour on the chicken. Bake for a further 10-15 minutes until chicken is looking nicely browned on top and the liquid is absorbed. Check that the chicken and rice are done.

Remove the chicken pieces and fold the feta cubes into the rice. Place the chicken back on top of the rice and let rest for a few minutes. Garnish with fresh herbs and grilled slices of lemon.

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