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Chicken Barley

by . Featured in AT MY TABLE
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Introduction

This thick, creamy pottage, somewhere cosily between a stew and a slightly soupy, sticky risotto, offers instant comfort. This is the sort of food that gets left behind in the Instagram age: not pretty to look at, but gratifyingly reassuring to eat.

It's not hard to remove the skin from a clutch of chicken thighs, and you can fry it to make chicken crackling to be crunched as it is. Nothing would go wrong if you were to keep the skin on but, for once, I prefer to keep the fat out of it. Do not even think about using boneless thigh fillets.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

This thick, creamy pottage, somewhere cosily between a stew and a slightly soupy, sticky risotto, offers instant comfort. This is the sort of food that gets left behind in the Instagram age: not pretty to look at, but gratifyingly reassuring to eat.

It's not hard to remove the skin from a clutch of chicken thighs, and you can fry it to make chicken crackling to be crunched as it is. Nothing would go wrong if you were to keep the skin on but, for once, I prefer to keep the fat out of it. Do not even think about using boneless thigh fillets.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

Image of Nigella's Chicken Barley
Photo by Jonathan Lovekin

Ingredients

Serves: 4-6

Metric Cups
  • 300 grams (trimmed weight) leeks (sliced)
  • 300 grams carrots (peeled and cut into chunky batons)
  • 300 grams parsnips (peeled and cut into very chunky batons)
  • 175 grams pearl barley
  • 6 chicken thighs with bone in and skin off
  • 1½ litres hot chicken stock
  • 4 teaspoons english mustard
  • leaves from 1 small (approx. 25g) bunch fresh flatleaf parsley
  • 10 ounces (trimmed weight) leeks (sliced)
  • 10 ounces carrots (peeled and cut into chunky batons)
  • 10 ounces parsnips (peeled and cut into very chunky batons)
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 6 chicken thighs with bone in and skin off
  • 6 cups hot chicken broth
  • 4 teaspoons english mustard
  • leaves from 1 small (approx. 1oz) bunch fresh italian parsley

Method

  1. Tip the prepared vegetables into a heavy-based casserole that comes with a lid, then add the barley and chicken thighs.
  2. Pour the stock into a jug, stir in the mustard, then pour this over the contents of the pan. Bring to the boil - and this is when better-behaved cooks would tell you to skim off the frothy bits that rise to the top but, frankly, I'm too lazy to - then turn down the heat, partially cover and let simmer for 1 hour, though check every now and again to make sure it's not bubbling away too much or dolefully not enough, giving a stir as you do so. If it looks as if it's boiling dry, then pour in a little boiling water.
  3. Once the hour's up, the barley, vegetables and chicken should be tender and the juices all but absorbed. Not that a little soupiness would be the end of the world. Remove from the heat and let stand with the lid off for 10 minutes.
  4. If you haven't used a skinless thighs, remove and discard the chicken skin. Using a couple of forks, pull the meat off the bones, and discard the bones (my particular treat is to chew the cartilage off them before chucking them away, but it's not to everyone's taste). Then throw in some of the chopped parsley and stir it through the stew, and put the rest on the table for people to sprinkle over their own bowls as they eat. It probably goes without saying that if you're feeding small children, predisposed to be pernickety about Green Bits, then you would be ill-advised to stir any parsley into the stew.
  1. Tip the prepared vegetables into a heavy-based casserole that comes with a lid, then add the barley and chicken thighs.
  2. Pour the stock into a jug, stir in the mustard, then pour this over the contents of the pan. Bring to the boil - and this is when better-behaved cooks would tell you to skim off the frothy bits that rise to the top but, frankly, I'm too lazy to - then turn down the heat, partially cover and let simmer for 1 hour, though check every now and again to make sure it's not bubbling away too much or dolefully not enough, giving a stir as you do so. If it looks as if it's boiling dry, then pour in a little boiling water.
  3. Once the hour's up, the barley, vegetables and chicken should be tender and the juices all but absorbed. Not that a little soupiness would be the end of the world. Remove from the heat and let stand with the lid off for 10 minutes.
  4. If you haven't used a skinless thighs, remove and discard the chicken skin. Using a couple of forks, pull the meat off the bones, and discard the bones (my particular treat is to chew the cartilage off them before chucking them away, but it's not to everyone's taste). Then throw in some of the chopped parsley and stir it through the stew, and put the rest on the table for people to sprinkle over their own bowls as they eat. It probably goes without saying that if you're feeding small children, predisposed to be pernickety about Green Bits, then you would be ill-advised to stir any parsley into the stew.

Additional Information

MAKE AHEAD / STORE:
It is not advisable to make ahead but you can refrigerate leftovers, within 2 hours of cooking, in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Reheat in a saucepan, adding a splash of water if necessary, until piping hot. Reheat only once.

FREEZE:
Leftovers can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge and reheat as above.

MAKE AHEAD / STORE:
It is not advisable to make ahead but you can refrigerate leftovers, within 2 hours of cooking, in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Reheat in a saucepan, adding a splash of water if necessary, until piping hot. Reheat only once.

FREEZE:
Leftovers can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge and reheat as above.

Tell us what you think

What 6 Others have said

  • This is lovely. In order to make it gluten free I missed out the barley and used dijon mustard. At the last cooking period I just added some pre-cooked basmati rice for a few minutes and it was great. Very close to one of my 'made up' recipes but loved the addition of parsnips.

    Posted by fleur38 on 25th April 2021
  • Balm for the soul of a tired teacher.

    Posted by Chickpeasplease on 3rd February 2021
  • All the way from South Africa...managed to find parsnips and made this one last night...quick, easy and very yummy!

    Posted by Marcelle_B on 2nd February 2021
  • I can't say how happy I am that I'm NOT THE ONLY ONE who relishes the cartilage! Up to now, that was my dark secret, and I didn't want anyone knowing.

    Posted by MsZeli on 2nd February 2021
  • Thank you. Just made a version of this in my slow cooker. Used cajun spice in place of mustard and no bones chicken (cos I'm not so good with bones!). Delicious and most definitely, comfort food.

    Posted by Cathii on 27th September 2020
  • I have leftover rotisserie chicken — I already ate the skin. I’m thinking I’ll use what I have (carrots, yellow onion, celery) along with the barley and homemade stock flavored with saffron. Adding the shredded chicken in at the end, just to heat it up, along with lemon juice and parsley. Just what I need today. Thanks for the recipe, Nigella!

    Posted by hollis517 on 27th September 2020
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