Danielle Alvarez's lemony chicken and orzo stew

One-pot chicken, spinach and orzo stew.
One-pot chicken, spinach and orzo stew. Photo: William Meppem
Dietary
Kid-friendly

This recipe uses wholesome ingredients I know I can turn to when I'm watching my pennies. Chicken drumsticks, often neglected, can be bought at a bargain price. Frozen spinach is a fraction of the cost of fresh and still delivers ample nutrition. While saving on those ingredients I do like to splurge on something fresh like lemons, which give this dish vibrancy. I bet you wouldn't feel like this dish was budget cooking in the slightest.

Ingredients

1kg chicken drumsticks

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 large carrots, diced

1 small onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tsp dried oregano

500ml chicken stock

1 litre water

1 tbsp dried dill*

3 egg yolks

2 lemons

150g orzo (risoni pasta)

250g chopped frozen spinach, defrosted

sea salt and black pepper

toasted bread rubbed with garlic, to serve (optional)

Cost breakdown

Chicken drumsticks $6

Carrots $0.55

Onion $0.30

Garlic $0.23

Dried oregano $0.12

Chicken stock $1.80

Eggs $1.13

Lemons $1.38

Dried dill $0.89

Orzo $0.72

Frozen spinach $1.80

Total $14.92

Method

1. Season the chicken with salt and set aside for 15-20 minutes while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

2. Heat a large Dutch oven or heavy-based lidded pot over high heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Brown the chicken on all sides. This should take about 10-15 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside in a bowl. Immediately add the diced carrots, onion and garlic with a pinch of salt and reduce heat to low. Sweat the vegetables until the onions look translucent, add the dried oregano and stir to combine.

3. Return the chicken to the pot and pour in the stock and the water. Cover with the lid and turn the heat back up to allow this to come back up to simmer. Once simmering, reduce the heat so it gently bubbles away for one to one and a quarter hours, or until the chicken is beginning to fall off the bone.

4. Turn the heat off and remove the chicken to a chopping board. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, pull the meat off the bone and add it back into the broth, discarding the bones. There should be enough broth that when you add the chicken back in it looks like soup. If too much liquid has evaporated, add enough water to give a soupy consistency.

5. Bring the mixture back up to a low simmer and add the dried dill. While that's happening, zest and juice the two lemons and combine zest, juice and egg yolks in a small bowl and set aside.

6. Pour the orzo into the pot and cook according to packet instructions, about 3-4 minutes. Carefully ladle some of the hot broth into the egg/lemon mixture while continuously whisking. This is to temper the egg yolks and prevent them from curdling. Keep adding broth until the egg mixture feels hot to the touch, then pour the whole mixture back into the pot. Keep the heat low and keep stirring until the mixture thickens, about 2 minutes.

7. Squeeze the spinach to remove excess liquid and add to the pot, stirring to combine. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and black pepper as needed, then serve.

*I wouldn't generally recommend dried herbs but dried dill is an exception. I love the flavour it imparts and in a stew like this you might not even notice it wasn't fresh.

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