Barley is a hearty, nuttier alternative to traditional arborio rice and served with roast chicken breasts, is a perfect easy dinner recipe.
When you say Barley to me, I think about people living amongst trees, wearing hemp sacks and singing along with the birds. I also think of dry, chewy and bland grain and how I used to despise it when my dad made it. But after my risotto post on Monday, one of my readers asked if she could try doing the baked risotto thing with Basmati rice. That got me thinking what other grains can be used instead of the normal arborio or carnaroli rice used for Risotto.
I have heard of people who’ve used barley for risotto before and I thought I would give it a go, even though I really don’t like the stuff. I’ve heard that it is really good for you, a low-gi grain etc. but all of that doesn’t matter to me if I can’t stomach something so I had to come up with a way of making this delicious. Let me just tell you that when I told my husband I was cooking with barley he looked at me, raised his eyebrow and then asked “Isn’t barley used to make beer?” Yes darling, it is, but you can also eat it. And as I wanted a healthier, heartier accompaniment to the roast chicken breasts I was planning for dinner, I thought I would give it a go.
I boiled the barley for 20 minutes in unsalted water to soften it and cut down on the actual risotto ‘cooking’ time. When the barley was soft but still ‘al dente’, I fried off some leeks and garlic, and then added the barley, stock and cream like you would if you made a normal risotto. The end result was, surprisingly, incredibly delicious. I fell in love with barley cooked this way and even my husband said it was amazing. I didn’t think my twins would touch it but they cleaned their plates and asked for more.
I served the risotto with simply roast chicken breasts (skin on, bone in) and a simple watercress and rocket salad dressed with a zesty dressing. Just delicious and something I’ll definitely be repeating in the future.
- 1 cup pearl barley
- 4 cups water
- 2 leeks washed and finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 500 ml 2 cups chicken stock
- 125 ml ½ cup cream
- salt & pepper to taste
- 4 chicken breasts on the bone and skin on
- juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons roasting spice of your choice
- 1 teaspoon
- 300 ml 1½ cup chicken stock
To get the risotto going, boil the barley in the water for 20-25 minutes until softened but still chewy in the middle.
Brown the chicken all over and place in a roasting dish. Drizzle over the lemon juice and add the roasting spice and the salt. Pour in the chicken stock and cover with foil. Place in the oven (220°c) and roast for 20-25 minutes until cooked throughout but still moist. Remove from the oven and allow to rest in a warm spot.
Drain the barley once cooked and set aside.
In the same pot you cooked the barley in, fry the leeks and garlic until soft and fragrant and add the barley. Stir to combine and add half of the chicken stock.
Stir the barley and chicken stock together and allow the stock to get absorbed. When the stock has been absorbed, taste the barley. If it still feels too firm for you, add the rest of the stock and repeat.
When the barley is cooked to your liking, add the cream and season with salt and pepper.
Serve the barley with the roasted chicken, it's pan juices and a side salad.