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Lemon barley pilaf with chicken recipe

Lemon barley pilaf with chicken recipe

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Barley is a much under-rated and seldom used grain, which is a great shame since it has a pleasing flavour and texture as well as being a good source of fibre. The addition of cooked chicken turns the dish into a great main course.

24 people made this

IngredientsServes: 4

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery sticks, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 225g pearl barley
  • 600ml chicken stock, hot
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried
  • grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 150g frozen peas
  • 400g skinned roasted chicken breast, shredded into small pieces
  • 50g rocket

MethodPrep:15min ›Cook:35min ›Ready in:50min

  1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over a moderate heat. Stir in the onion, carrots, celery and garlic, then cook gently for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned.
  2. Stir in the barley and cook for 1 minute longer. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Add the thyme and lemon zest. Reduce the heat to very low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until the barley is almost soft.
  3. Add the peas, re-cover and simmer for a further 4–5 minutes until the barley is soft but not mushy and all the stock is absorbed. Stir in the lemon juice and season to taste.
  4. Add the chicken pieces and rocket leaves and lightly toss together. Serve at once.


This pilaf is also delicious eaten at room temperature as a salad. Allow the pilaf to cool before adding the chicken and rocket leaves.

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Reviews & ratingsAverage global rating:(8)

Reviews in English (11)

Something else.Several changes.1. Pre-cooked the barley as the cooking time was too short and it was still rather chewy.2. Used leftover turkey from Christmas and some bacon, which was added towards the end as already cooked.3. Replaced the rocket with baby spinach.I have added my version of this dish - 'Lemon Barley Pilaf with Turkey & Bacon' to my own site - Meanderings through my Cookbook-09 Jan 2011

Very nice I thought. Didn't think the barley was that bad to cook. A nice and different meal to our usual chicken and rice.-31 Jan 2011

We shall be eating my amended version of this recipe again (see my tweaks above). The lemon flavour is delicious, however the timing for the barley is way out. Would make a good risotto as well.hopeeternal'Meanderings through my Cookbook' Jan 2011

Winter Lemon Chicken Barley Soup

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An irresistible creamy lemon chicken barley soup that has tons of veggies, tender barley, and is hearty and comforting for chilly winter days!

I’ve got a confession. This soup was an accident.

Lemon chicken barley soup is the product of a smattering of heavy cream that was sitting in the back of my refrigerator leftover from another recipe I was testing. And nothing bugs me more than when you’ve got a tiny amount of cream that needs to be used up before it expires. You know, when a recipe calls for something like 3 ½ cups of cream? One cup too many to get away with a pint-size and ½ cup too short for a full quart. When you can’t justify adding heavy cream to your coffee because you know you overindulged in birthday cakes and holiday treats and such.

We’ve had the grossest weather in Houston as of late. It’s cloudy and gloomy all day and cold and rainy evenings. Days like these all I want is warm comfort food for dinner, and my lemon chicken barley soup wholly fits the bill.

It’s warm chicken broth and veggie-based with a generous squeeze of lemon juice and a dash of heavy cream to bring it all together. In the hopes of going healthier in January, I’ve swapped out my usual pasta for pearl barley, and I couldn’t be happier with the results. Herby, lemon-loaded chicken soup – so perfect for winter.

It’s so not a secret that I love soups. I mean just looking through the recent archives, I’ve made us salmon chowder, Moroccan stuffed pepper soup, green curry chicken noodle, and my all-time favorite tomato basil soup. So today’s soup is a little different. Before this soup, I had never actually meshed together barley with chicken before. I’ve made us beef and barley soup in the past, and so many of you guys loved it, I thought why not do a creamy take on chicken and barley?

Think of this as an old-school cream of lemon soup, speckled with tender cooked barley and shredded chicken and veggies. One thing that utterly makes this soup though? The sprinkling or tarragon we add at the end. That licorice flavor does so much good work here.

Ingredients for lemon chicken barley soup:

  • olive oil
  • mirepoix
  • leeks
  • garlic
  • pepper (white pepper and red pepper flakes)
  • pearl barley
  • chicken stock
  • bay leaves
  • shredded chicken
  • lemon juice + zest
  • heavy cream
  • chopped tarragon

What is mirepoix?

Mirepoix is a combination of chopped vegetables. Most often they are onions, celery, and carrots. Mirepoix is the ideal starter for most soups. I like to start my soups by sauteeing mirepoix in olive oil and/or butter until the veggies soften a bit. It instantly adds so much flavor!

What part of the leek do you use?

  1. Start by slicing through the white and yellow part of your leeks. The green leaves can be discarded, or you can pop them into the freezer for when you make chicken/vegetable stock (no really, it’s so good that way.)
  2. Now slice the leeks lengthwise and give them a good thorough wash under running water. Pat them dry and then thinly slice the leeks so that you have semi-circles. Your leeks are now ready to use in our lemon chicken barley soup!

Why use tarragon in this chicken soup?

Tarragon and lemon go together beautifully. Tarragon has almost a bittersweet, licorice flavor that elevates the flavors in this soup! It makes things fancy, without having to try very hard. Chicken and tarragon are truly made for each other!

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Make It a Meal

With its toothsome texture and subtle flavor, barley makes a great accompaniment to beef or chicken. Try it with Roasted Chicken with Baharat, Garlic, and Mint and a side of Green Beans with Pecans and Date Syrup. A smooth Butternut Squash Kugel rounds out the meal and ups the comfort fare factor. Finish with a slice of whole grain Jewish Apple Cake and tea or coffee. If you have extra plain cooked barley, it's a great hearty breakfast. Serve it warm with some fruit, nuts, and or warm syrup or honey.

Keys for a Flavorful Sauce

The sauce in this braised chicken dish is so flavorful!

Now that you know how to achieve that crispy skin, let’s talk about the sauce…

One technique that we use often to enhance the flavor of our dishes is to add a little bit of wine or other liquor while cooking. For this particular dish, we’ve included wine, port AND brandy! So consider this everyone’s lucky day!

Flambé plays a big part in this dish. If you’ve never flambéed a dish, don’t be intimidated. I mean, don’t be a reckless cook either – you are, after all, starting a fire in the kitchen. But it is ON PURPOSE and it creates flavor and a pretty cool light show.

So, if you haven’t flambeed anything, just read our tips below and follow the instructions. It may seem intimidating, but it’s not as difficult as it may seem.

But we must caution you, fire is in fact HOT. It will burn you if you are not careful! Please use caution when flambéing anything.

Tips for Flambéing

  1. Use a pan with rounded deep sides and a long handle
  2. Always measure your brandy (or other alcohol) into a separate container and NEVER pour from the bottle
  3. Remove the pan from the heat prior to adding your brandy
  4. Your pan should be hot but not so hot that it is smoking
  5. If you have a range hood vent fan, turn it on. If you don’t have a range hood fan, move your pan to a counter space that is open and away from anything flammable
  6. Do not lean any part of your body over the pan
  7. Keep a lid nearby in case the fire continues to burn for longer than 15 seconds and cover the pan to put it out.

Oh, don’t hold your 1-year-old toddler on your hip while you do it, either (see above about being reckless). You can flambé with just about any spirit that has a high enough alcohol content to ignite (and even some wines).

The goal is to burn the alcohol off quickly, and leave behind a rich, deep flavor of the spirit you used for the flambé.

Lemon Barley Pilaf

Usually I don’t like to share recipes that haven’t been 100% approved by the whole family but sometimes I’ll make the exception when I think it’s a great dish. I love this Lemon Barley Pilaf, the flavour was great and I loved the texture the pearl barley brings. Husband wasn’t a fan mainly because of the pearl barley but said the flavour was great so that’s still a win in my book. It makes for a great change from rice or potatoes as a side dish or add some cooked chicken for an easy, summery main meal.

Have you tried pearl barley? Fan or not of the texture?

  • 1 onion quartered
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • pinch salt and pepper
  • 160 grams pearl barley
  • 500 grams water
  • 1 tablespoon chicken stock paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 grams fresh parsley
  • 1 carrot quartered
  • 1 capsicum quartered and deseeded
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest

Very slightly adapted from here

About Suzanne

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Lucy @ Bake Play Smile

Yum. And I absolutely love pearl barley so this will definitely be a hit here! Thanks for linking up with our Fabulous Foodie Fridays party. xx


Just bought a cook processor yesterday and was a bit perplexed about what to cook but found your blog and am saved! Love pearl barley, especially in salads with nuts and lentils added.

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My Cook Processor is dedicated to bringing you recipes that are easy to cook for your family using the KitchenAid Cook Processor.

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Suzanne Baltetsch is a full time mum who is passionate about preparing quality, tasty meals for her family. Suzanne is constantly experimenting in the kitchen through cooking, baking and cake decorating. She is also the writer and owner at which is dedicated to developing easy to cook, family meals and treats using the KitchenAid Cook Processor.

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Herb-Basted Chicken with Pearl Barley, Bacon, and Root Vegetable Pilaf

Bring 2 cups water and salt to boil in medium saucepan. Mix in barley. Cover pan, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until barley is tender, about 30 minutes. Drain barley.

Step 2

Sauté bacon in large pot over medium heat until brown and crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons drippings from pot. Add shallot stir 30 seconds. Add cubed vegetables and sugar sauté 6 minutes. Add barley, lemon juice, and herbs stir 2 minutes. Mix in bacon season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 hour ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Cover and place in oven to rewarm while chicken roasts, adding water by tablespoonfuls to moisten if dry.)


Step 3

Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat oil in large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Place chicken, skin side down, in skillet. Cook until skin browns, about 7 minutes. Add butter and herbs to skillet stir to blend. Turn chicken skin side up. Place skillet in oven roast chicken until cooked through, basting occasionally with herb butter, about 20 minutes.

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup onion (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup celery (chopped)
  • green or red bell pepper, chopped (1/2 cup, optional)
  • 1 cup mushrooms (fresh sliced, or 1- 4 ounce can mushrooms, drained)
  • 1 cup pearl barley (uncooked)
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable bouillon (or beef or chicken, low sodium)
  • 2 1/2 cups water

1. Place a medium pan over medium heat add vegetable oil, onion and celery. Cook, stirring often until onion is soft.
2. Add bell pepper (if using), mushrooms and pearl barley. Stir well.
3. Add water and bouillon and stir to dissolve bouillon. Bring to a boil, lower heat and cover pan.
4. Cook for 50 to 60 minutes or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed.

Olio By Marilyn

The last week of November 2013, Executive Chef and Vancouver Sun columnist Karen Barnaby posted an article called, "Shedding Light on Hanukkah." With it she shared four recipes that would make a three course meal - Beet, Pear and Fennel Soup Chicken Marabella Lemon Barley Pilaf and Orange, Walnut, Spelt and Olive Oil Cake. With such a busy fall season, I have lost the habit of cooking and wanted to reignite my imagination. Trying new recipes like these seemed the perfect choice - especially ones that ask me to step outside the box. This recipe puts brown sugar on the chicken - something I would never do normally. I decided that I would try the soup another day.

All but the pilaf can be prepared the night before which works great for my life. When trying a new menu like this, the first step is always to make a complete shopping list to avoid frustration. Then when you get home with the groceries, separate out the ingredients you will need for each dish. First I put the chicken in the marinade. Then I whipped up the cake, baked it and set it on a cooling rake. The next day the chicken and the pilaf baked together in the oven. All I had to do was add a vegetable or salad. The cake is dusted at the last minute with icing sugar and served with a mixture of Mediterranean Yogurt and honey.

The response to the chicken and cake was great. Barley Pilaf was a stretch for my family but it turned out to be a very tasty dish in my eyes. I added some colour with carrot and red pepper, though. The cake - as is any cake not made from white flour - is a bit denser and dryer. The Yogurt and Honey mix is the perfect addition. Another option would be Vanilla flavoured Mediterranean Yogurt.

20 Large chicken thighs, bone in and skin on or off (I took the skin off)
6 Cloves garlic, minced
2 T Dried oregano
1 tsp Sea salt (I used regular salt)
½ C Red Wine Vinegar
½ C Extra-virgin olive oil
1 C Pitted prunes
½ C Pitted Spanish green olives (I used sliced instead of whole)
½ C Pitted Kalamata olives (I used sliced instead of whole)
2 T Drained capers
6 Bay leaves
¾ C Brown sugar
1 C White wine

Place the chicken in a large, non-corrodible dish (or extra-large ZipLoc Bag). Whisk together the garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice, and bay leaves. Pour over the chicken and toss well. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight or up to two days (I don't know that I would leave it for 2 days. Overnight is my max from a safety standpoint.)

Heat the oven to 350 F (175 C). Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking dishes and spoon marinade mixture over it evenly. Tuck the prunes in between the chicken pieces so they won't burn. Sprinkle the chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around them. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently with pan juices. The chicken is done when it exudes a clear yellow liquid when pricked with a fork at the thickest point.

With a slotted spoon transfer chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a little of the pan juices and pass the remaining pan juices separately.

The pilaf without added vegetables
Lemon Barley Pilaf
This simple pilaf goes very nicely with the Chicken Marbella and can be baked in the oven at the same time. I looked at a few other recipes and like the addition of a little diced carrot and red pepper to give this colour. My additions are noted at end of the recipe.

4 T Extra-virgin olive oil
3 C Thinly sliced onion
2 C Pearl barley
4 T Lemon juice (1/4 cup)
4 C Chicken broth
1 T Sea salt (I used regular salt)

In a large, ovenproof pot that has a lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently until the onion is golden brown.

Heat the oven to 350 F (175 C). Add the barley and stir to coat it with the onion. Add the lemon juice, chicken broth, thyme and salt. Bring to a boil and cover with the lid. Transfer to the oven and bake for 45 minutes to one hour until the barley is tender. Remove from the oven and stir in the lemon and pepper. Check and adjust the seasoning.

Orange, Walnut, Spelt and Olive Oil Cake
A simple cake that benefits from being made the day before. Wrap tightly and let sit at room temperature. Makes 8-10 servings (Note - I assumed Spelt would be a gluten free option. Not so. It has a lower percentage of gluten, but definitely not for someone with a Celiac Disease.

4 Large eggs
1 1/2 C Chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
2 C Whole spelt flour
2 tsp Baking powder
1/2 tsp Sea salt (I used regular salt)

Submerge the eggs, straight from the fridge, in a bowl of hot tap water. Let sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Heat the oven to 350F (175C). Spray a 10-inch (12.5 cm) springform pan with non-stick spray. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper and spray the paper.

Place the walnuts and 1/2 cup (125 mL) of the spelt flour in a food processor. Pulse until the walnuts are finely ground. Transfer to a bowl and whisk in the remaining flour, baking powder, salt and orange zest.With an electric mixer, beat the eggs until frothy. Slowly add the sugars and continue beating on high speed until thick, pale yellow, and doubled in volume, four to five minutes. Lower the speed and gradually add the flour mixture, then the orange juice and olive oil. Beat on medium speed for 30 seconds, scraping down the inside of the bowl. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

Place on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until a tester inserted into centre comes out clean, about 45-55 minutes. Cool the cake completely in the pan on a rack. Release the pan sides. Carefully invert the cake onto platter and remove the parchment paper. The cake may be made 1 day in advance. Wrap tightly and keep at room temperature. Sift icing sugar over the cake. Combine the yogurt and honey and serve on the side.

Note: Zest the oranges first, then squeeze them for juice. Two large oranges will yield ½ cup (125 mL) of juice.


Rice is very moist and can begin to grow bacteria in under 2 hours if left sitting out. Seal it in an airtight container while still warm and it will last in the fridge for 4 – 5 days.


If you’d like to make and freeze this recipe ahead of time just place it in the fridge till it’s completely cool in an airtight container then transfer to the freezer and it should last up to 3 months. When ready to eat you’ll just want to allow it to thaw overnight in the fridge before popping it back in a 350 F degree oven for 20 minutes.