Cook it, live it – chicken soup with orzo

Cook Chicken soup with orzo, shredded vine leaves, tomatoes, lemon and herbs, live it with stylish Habitat dinnerware and accessories.

We know autumn is upon us, but we’re clinging to brighter times with recipes from chef Maria Elia‘s new book, Smashing Plates. Anglo Greek Cypriot Maria combines sensational flavours, colours and textures to create imaginative dishes in this beautiful collection of recipes, redefining Greek cuisine.

The 120 recipes are inspired by her Cypriot roots and a summer spent cooking at her father’s taverna in the Troodos Mountains. We can’t wait to try Carrot Keftedes, Courgette and Feta Crumbed Squid, and tempting sweet dishes including Watermelon Mahalepi, Rose Water and Almond chocolate tea cakes and Chocolate Tahini Cake.

Maria’s love of cooking developed as a child growing up in the kitchen of her Greek Cypriot father’s restaurant in Richmond. After a rigorous apprenticeship, Maria began her progression through the culinary world. She worked in Italy, America and Australia, spent time cooking at El Bulli and Arzak restaurants in Spain and at The Oriental Cooking School in Bangkok.

The regional flavours of these far-flung places feature in Maria’s own recipes, earning her many fans during her time as head chef at Delfina and the Whitechapel Gallery Dining Room, where she gained 2 AA rosettes and a Michelin recommendation. Her other books are The Modern Vegetarian and Full of Flavour, also published by Kyle Books.

Maria says: ‘There’s nothing more comforting than a bowl of chicken soup… I’d recommend you poach the chicken a day in advance. You can make this by poaching a whole chicken, as described below or, if you’ve half a roast chicken left, strip the meat from it and make a stock from the roasted carcass following the instructions below.

‘I adore the flavour and smell of stuffed vine leaves: they bring back childhood memories of spending Sundays at my aunty Stella’s, and to this day I’ve never tasted a dolmades (stuffed vine leaves) that ever tasted so good.

However, I do have terrible memories of being forced to eat chicken, lemon and egg soup, a Greek classic known as ‘avegolemono’, which used to make me want to gag! I was made to eat at least half, so as not to appear rude, but I only got away with half because I kicked up such a fuss! I’d never order a bowl myself, nor will you find a recipe for it in this book – I still can’t stand it!

‘While writing this recipe I got to thinking that some soaked raisins and shaved Kefalotyri would be good to serve with this soup. I also tried it topped with a little crumbled feta, which was great. Next time I make it I’m going to add some peeled broad beans. Basically, go with what takes your fancy!’

Serves 4–6

a glug of olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
A pinch of ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 litre reserved chicken broth
200g orzo*
4 large, vine-ripened tomatoes, peeled and diced
8 vine leaves (fresh or pickled), trimmed of stalk and shredded **
1⁄2 reserved chicken meat from poaching (see below)
4 tablespoons finely chopped mint
4 tablespoons finely chopped dill
4 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra-virgin olive oil, to serve

* If you don’t have orzo, you can use long-grain rice, but you’ll need to cook it for a little longer, following the manufacturer’s guidelines. i.e 15 minute total cooking time, cook rice for 5 minutes before adding chicken, tomatoes, etc.
** If using fresh vine leaves, blanch them in boiling salted water for about 2 minutes until they’re no longer bright green; refresh under cold running water. If using pickled or jarred leaves, place in a colander and rinse well.

Heat the oil in a medium-sized saucepan over a medium heat, add the onion and cook for 5–8 minutes until softened and transparent. Add the garlic, allspice and cinnamon and cook for 1 minute more, then add the chicken stock and bring almost to the boil. Add the orzo, tomatoes, vine leaves and chicken then reduce the heat so the soup is simmering and cook for about 8 minutes, or until the orzo is tender.

Add the fresh herbs and lemon juice and season with sea salt and black pepper. Serve drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil.

How to poach a chicken

1 x 2kg free range chicken, at room temperature
a glug of olive oil
250ml dry white wine
4 sticks of celery, roughly chopped
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
a few parsley stalks
6 thyme sprigs
10 whole black peppercorns

Remove any giblets from your chicken and trim any excess fat.

Heat the oil in a pan large enough to hold the chicken and enough water to cover. Once the oil is hot, sear the chicken until golden on either side, then remove from the pan. Add the white wine, turn up the heat and reduce until almost evaporated.

Add the celery, onion, carrots, garlic, herbs and peppercorns to the pot, along with the chicken, and add enough cold water to cover the chicken by several centimetres. Place over a medium-high heat and bring almost to the boil, then reduce the heat so the water is simmering gently.

Umbria placemat; Flynn lemon squeezer; Andalucia bowl; Agra marble cheese board; Agra marble pinch pot; Sintra dinner plate; Sintra bowl; Acacia curved mill; Acacia cylindrical mill; Devon glass; Gala yellow napkin; Evora turquoise bowl

Smashing Plates is published by Kyle Books.

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