Monday, 13 December 2021

Chicken And Pearl Barley Risotto

Pearl barley brings back memories of our mum's soup - a big pot being cooked up on a cold winter's night.  Definitely cheap, cheerful, and delicious.  I bought some biodynamic stuff in winter, and just to finish it off, I decided to make this barley risotto.  I'd chanced upon an episode of Nigella Lawson's where she made her version, and then I came upon this one by Tori Haschka from her book A Suitcase And A Spatula - so here we are.

To be honest, this was not Mr P.'s favourite dish.  But he valiantly ate it for dinner, while I drifted off into childhood memories of playing outside on a winter's afternoon, while fog drifted all around us, and I imagined brave knights in armour riding through the mist ...  I was a very imaginative child :-)

Serves 4:


750 mL - 1 Litre (3-4 cups) chicken or vegetable stock

1 tbs (15-20 mL) EV olive oil

1 brown or red onion, finely diced

3 small red chillies, chopped finely

3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

200g. (1 cup) pearl barley

100 mL (a scant half cup) of white wine

200g. (7 oz) mushrooms, thinly sliced

500g. (a generous 1 lb) boneless chicken thighs, chopped into big chunks

a big!! pinch of saffron threads

a big handful (20g./1/2 cup) of parsley, chopped

2 tbs cream (or evaporated milk)

zest of half a lemon

sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste - maybe 1/2-1 tsp of salt (?)

a really big!! handful of baby spinach leaves

more chopped parsley to strew over the top


Bring the stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan, and let it sit while you start on the risotto

Sauté the onion, chillies and garlic in the EV olive oil (in a large saucepan) for about 5 minutes till translucent

Add the barley, and give it a good stir

Throw in the wine, and stir it until the wine has reduced by half

Now spoon in 2 ladles of stock, and stir for 5 minutes

Spoon in the rest of the hot stock, and add the mushrooms and chicken pieces

And in goes the saffron and parsley; give it a stir and let it simmer away on medium-low heat, uncovered, for about 45-50 minutes till the barley is tender, and the stock absorbed

No need for constant stirring; just check it every so often, and add more stock if it looks like it's drying out

When the barley is cooked, add the cream, lemon zest, salt and pepper, spinach leaves and the extra parsley


I bought a sleeved bunch of parsley, and the entire bunch was 20 grams!

My risotto needed a bit more stock and a bit longer on the stove; the biodynamic barley is obviously of hardier stock than the normal store-bought stuff

ingredients gathered

simmering stock at the back; aromates sautéing in the front

sauté the barley

hot stock

stir in the chicken, parsley etc.

throw in the spinach at the end

throw on the parsley

Barley stalks © Sherry M.


  1. I wonder if I've ever had barley made this way -- I think not. But all sorts of grains make good pilaf-type dishes, so this looks nice.

    best... mae at

  2. With our cold weather coming in, a good soup sounds tasty and warm -- and this would be a lovely one. I hope you are feeling better and hurting less each day!

    1. this is quite thick jeanie, but you could add more stock or water and turn it into a soup!

  3. I love barley! This looks so healthful and jam packed with flavours. I bet Mr. P has enjoyed it tremendously.

    1. yes barley is so tasty. He wasn't so sure about this but he ate it!

  4. This looks delicious. Always on the lookout for a new way to prepare chicken.

    1. i think of it as a barley recipe but you're right - there's chicken for sure :-)

  5. Love a good risotto minus the mushrooms :)

  6. This sounds like a delicious comfort food meal, Sherry! I do enjoy pearl barley, but I don't make it all that often - I should change that. You can just send me Mr. P's portion! :-)

  7. This looks terrific! I don't often use barley -- something I'd like to incorporate in more of my dishes. And haven't made risotto with it -- nice idea. I'm all for adding spinach at the end of almost any dish -- love its color and the nice hit of flavor it adds. This looks great -- thanks.

  8. I love barley for its unique taste and especially texture! I often use it during the cold months as it's a perfect comforting ingredient to me, too. But I don't make barley risotto often, and I should fix this. Your chicken barley risotto looks and sounds great!

  9. A wonderful belly-warming recipe Sherry. For whatever reason, peal barley is very difficult to find here. But not to worry, we have an abundance of oat groat. I've made a few savory dishes using the oat grain that turned out well, so I'll try it with your recipe.
    PS: I love the saffron addition...

    1. thanks Ron. oat groats? never heard of them :-) yep the saffron is good.

  10. This looks amazing warm up dish for cold weather. I might try with a gluten free grain.

  11. Oh yum! I love risotto but rarely make it at home as hubby is not a fan and calls it "wet rice." Maybe I could turn him with this barley option?! I just love anything with pearl barley!

  12. Well it looks delicious even if it wasn't Mr P's favourite! I've never made it with barley but am intrigued!

  13. I love risotto and I love barley -- guess I need to try this.

  14. Sorry Mr. P didn’t like it — I’d eat this in a heartbeat! I love the comfort of barley, too. Reminds me of my mom’s soups.

    1. yes it's amazing how food can bring on the memories of childhood.

  15. Sherry,
    Barley is something that I have struggled to use commonly in Savoury dishes. However, I make porridge out of ground barley. Your recipe has given me some good inspiration and some ideas to make a comforting meal.


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