Warm pearl barley salad with courgettes, leeks, herbs and chicken.



Even though Autumn has now arrived and we saw the equinox appear on Friday, we are still in that “in-between stage” as I call it certainly food wise.

I cooked this recipe on my regular BBC Radio Leicester slot with Ben Jackson a couple of weeks ago. I came up with the recipe because we are still having lovely bouts of sunshine and like in my garden, I am still harvesting the last of the summer vegetables. I still have Courgettes, baby leeks, carrots, beans, lots of herbs and many more to list. Great for me to create even more recipes with in the next few weeks.

I feel at this time of year we are in the middle of wanting comfort food but maybe somedays you still want food that is quick to prepare, healthy and feels light when eating.

This is a great recipe also for using up leftover Roast chicken. So if you usually have chicken for a Sunday Roast, or in midweek then this is a perfect meal to come up with after. I also wanted to showcase how to use pearl barley in a different way rather that just in stews/casseroles and highlight the lovely herbs in this dish. Pearl barley is inexpensive and you don’t need to use a lot of it.


Click here to hear me with Ben Jackson on BBC Radio Leicester showing you just how quick and simple this meal is to prepare.



Warm pearl barley salad with courgettes, leeks and chicken. 





  • 75g of cooked pearl barley , I cooked mine in a little chicken stock and seasoned with cracked black pepper and sea salt once cooked.
  • 2 tbsps of rapeseed Oil.
  • 2 knobs of unsalted butter.
  • 1 1/2 – 2 Courgettes sliced to the thickness of a one pound coin.
  • 2 baby leeks or 1 small leek finely sliced.
  • 1 large spring onions or 2 small sized ones finely sliced.
  • 2 cloves of garlic roughly chopped .
  • Approximately 100g of leftover roast chicken, shredded. ( I used chicken thighs and cooked mine in rapeseed oil with garlic, lemon thyme, oregano, sage, dill and fennel. Plus seasoned. I also added a few slices of lemon.)
  • A good handful of fresh herbs such as dill, fennel fronds, fennel pollen and mint finely chopped.
  •   A few Squeezes of fresh lemon.
  • Sea salt and cracked black pepper to season.
  • If you want to keep this recipe vegetarian then simply leave out the chicken and chicken stock.



  • Fry off your courgettes for a couple of minutes in rapeseed oil.
  •  Add in your garlic and stir. Then pop in your leeks and cook for a further minute. Again stirring or tossing around the pan allowing your garlic not to stick or burn.
  • Add the white parts of your spring onion, stir and then add in your butter. Cook for a further minute.
  • By now the courgettes will be cooked and glossy with the butter. Season with cracked black pepper and a pinch of sea salt .
  • Add to this mixture your green part of the spring onions and take off the heat.
  • Sprinkle in your fresh herbs but save some dill and fennel fronds for serving.
  • Pour your mixture into a bowl, add to this then your shredded chicken and pearl barley, Squeeze a little fresh lemon into the mix and give it a good stir.
  • Serve into large bowls, add the remaining dill and fennel on top and a little extra squeeze of lemon ( if you like it extra zingy ).
  • You can serve this on its own or with some toasted bread ( a batard type ).  Use the same frying pan to lightly toast your bread if you do and it will give it wonderful flavour.




Herby chicken casserole with winter veg and pearl barley

A couple of weeks back, we had the first fluttering of snow this year and temperatures  dropped to actually what it should be in January now… 0 degrees. Hurrah! Finally! 
 My woolies came out and winter is finally here! I do love winter. I do! I love the snow. Also, putting on those oversized coats that you always say you are going to fit into, snuggling in a huge knitted scarf and wearing a pom pom hat. But simply taking yourself out for a crisp, cold winter’s walk and trying to catch what birds and wildlife you can spot. How lovely?

Here is a photo I took on that Sunday of a beautiful wintery scene in Leicestershire:

We stopped at a lovely area we know where you can just sit and watch the birds feeding. We were thrilled to see a great spotted woodpecker, he was a grand little thing. Neither of us were quick enough to take a picture! We also saw a Jay which was beautiful with his flash of bright blue on him.

But thats just me, I love that. More to the point, the food that you can pair with all this winter bliss is wonderful.

   In this weather I crave for hearty stews and soups. Don’t we all surely? Dunking that crusty bread in there is food heaven. But do we all feel they are complicated to make? Or time consuming without a slow cooker? 
  Well, I thought I would show you a very simple way of doing a casserole. I did it after that winter outing but actually came up with the recipe last year and forgot to write about it! I also shared this recipe with my readers of my weekly column in the Leicester Mercury.

  Not all stews and casseroles take forever.  With this recipe it’s all in the prep, then into the oven and it does all the work for you, so you can sit back with a large glass of wine in front of the fire.

  This is simple, affordable food that will blow the cold socks off your friends and family. 
  I actually created another recipe from the last bits of veg and juice that were left so I will post that shortly too for you too.

Herby Chicken casserole with winter veg and pearl barley:

–   1 tbsp Rapeseed oil
  • Chicken thighs (1-2 per person)
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 garlic clove finely chopped
  • 1 stick of celery sliced
  • 2 carrots diced into chunks ( Veg all the same size )
  • 1 large parsnip diced into chunks
  • 1/4 Swede diced into chunks
 –   1/2 tin of chopped tomatoes
  •   Chicken stock ( 1 gel pot ) to roughly 1 litre of water
  •   A tied mixture of herbs of Sage, rosemary, thyme, lemon thyme and bayleaf 
  • salt and cracked black pepper to season
  • a good splash of dry white wine
  • a handful of pearl barley
  • 1 leek sliced
  • 3-4 chestnut mushrooms sliced
  • If you want to thicken the sauce slightly at the end, add in a tbsp of chicken gravy granules. 

  • Cook the pearl barley to packet instructions, drain and set aside to pop in later.
*  Preheat oven to 190c.
  • Fry off your Chicken thighs just to colour. Pop onto a plate aside. Then in the same fat, fry off your onion, carrots, parsnip, swede and celery for a couple of minutes just to coat.
  • Add your garlic into the casserole pot, stir and add the chicken back in with the  tomatoes, wine, stock and herbs. Cover with a lid and place in the oven for 30-40 minutes depending on how many you are feeding for.
  • After 30-40 minutes check on the Casserole to see if veg is cooking well or may need a little water etc.
  • At this same point add in your leeks, mushrooms and pearl barley Pop back into the oven for 10 minutes.
  • After 10 minutes if you would like your sauce thicker, add in 1 tbsp of chicken gravy granules.Pop back in the oven for 5  minutes.

* After this point, check if it needs seasoning and then you are ready to serve. I served mine with Mustard mashed potato by adding dijon mustard to how you would normally do your mash.


Pumpkin risotto with pearl barley, leeks and bacon topped with crispy kale


An Autumnal risotto that is a lovely alternative recipe for when you want to do something a little more sophisticated but yet its still a great frugal “fridge raid” recipe.
 Risottos are a great way of using up what veg you need to. Plus with this dish you are using up any Pumpkin you may still have lying around as many just get thrown away or not bought at all throughout their season. Many just used for decoration. 
  You can even get the children involved in helping squeezing out all the orange coloured flesh.
 Use the Seeds by roasting them in the oven as a tasty snack and if you have any Risotto leftover, make Arancini the next day.
  Leeks and Kale are also in season at this time of year so if you like to cook along with them like me, this is the perfect dish for you.

 I did this recipe first for BBC Radio Leicester on my regular cooking slot for Ben Jackson’s show.  However this time, Ed Stagg was filling in for him. You can hear me showing Ed here how to make it.

 It was so popular, I decided to then do it for my weekly column.

Pumpkin risotto with pearl barley, leeks and bacon topped with crispy kale:


1-2 tbsp Rapeseed oil

2-3 handfuls of Carnaroli risotto rice
a good splash of dry white wine
a handful of pearl barley cooked in a little chicken stock 
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
1 medium sized onion diced finely
1/4 leek sliced
1/4 small farmed pumpkin peeled and diced. Plus use some of the flesh inside to squeeze out the orange juice. ( I bought mine from a local Farm called Cattow’s Farm)
800ml homemade chicken stock or 1 gel pot chicken stock to 800ml water, can use veg stock if keeping vegetarian
2 rashers of smoked bacon sliced
Few gratings of parmesan cheese ( parmigiano reggiano )
handful of unsalted butter cold and diced
cracked black pepper to season 

Crispy Kale: 

A few handfuls of Curly kale

2 tbsp rapeseed oil
sprinkle of sea salt to season and sugar


*  Cook off pearl barley to packet instructions.

*  Sweat off chopped onion in a pan and cook until starting to go translucent 

*  Add garlic, stir and then pop in your rice. Stir but not too much.Then de glaze your pan with wine.Cook until starting to reduce.

*  Add in hot Chicken stock then ladle by ladle for about 10 minutes, not allowing to stick, but not string too much as this will make the rice glutinous

*  pop in your Kale in the oven on 200c or 190 fan for 5 minutes.

*  Add in your chopped pumpkin to the risotto and cook for further 5 minutes, then add your leek and cook for a further 3 minutes.

*  Fry off your bacon in a separate pan till it goes crispy on the edges

*  Then add in your cooked pearl barley and stir only a little. Here you can squeeze the inside bright coloured flesh into the risotto to make an orange colour

*  Add your butter to the risotto, plus a little parmesan and cracked black pepper,  turn the heat off and cover with a lid.

*  Serve in large bowls, top with the bacon, then kale and a snow of parmesan.


Tomato, Barley and vegetable soup

This recipe sent me back thinking to my childhood, not because it was something we always ate, but because it reflected on something that happens all over our country at this time of year, in Churches, schools, Farm shops and that is of course…The Harvest festival. 
  Farmers and vegetable growers of all levels gather their crops in Autumn as a celebration to show the general public where their food comes from and also it’s a chance to raise money for Charity. 
  Last Saturday was also the start of British food Fortnight, (19th Sep-4th Oct 2015) so the two fit perfectly together.

  This soup is packed full of most vegetables that are being harvested now and they certainly were from my little Kitchen garden that Im so very proud of. 

   Soup always makes me feel good inside and warm,when Ive had it. Maybe after a long day or when a cold is drawing near. With this recipe, Im sure it will give you quite an amount of your Five-a day.

  This is a one pot dish that is so economical but with the added pearl barley and lots of vegetables it will keep you feeling full –  Fit for the Harvest festival! 

Tomato Barley and vegetable soup:
( Serves 4 approximately)
  •   1-2 tbsp rapeseed oil 
  •   a couple of handfuls of pearl barley
  • 1 onion finely diced
  • 1  Large carrot finely diced
  • 1  large celery stick finely sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped or grated
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1-2 tbsp of tomato puree
  •   Pinch of sugar
  • 1 leek  finely sliced 
  • 1 gel pot of vegetable stock or Chicken stock
  • handful of fresh herbs : Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary finely chopped
  • 1-2 runner beans sliced
  • 1 courgette chopped finely
  • salt and cracked black pepper to season
  • Handful of finely chopped fresh basil to finish
  • Cook Pearl barley to packet instructions but add in some stock to your water, whichever you are using.
  •   Sweat off your carrot and celery with your rapeseed oil in a pan for a minute or two, then add in your onions. Cook until starting to soften.
  •   Then add in your sliced leek, stir and sweat down for about 2 minutes. Add in your Garlic and stir again.
  •   Pop in your chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and sugar and turn down the heat slightly. Stir in your stock and add about 1/2 litre of water. (I prefer to add as I go) 
  •   Leave this now to simmer away for about 15-20 minutes allowing your veg to soften. Keep checking and if it needs more water, add a little more.
  • After this point, add in your courgettes and runner beans and cook for about 3 minutes.
  • Then add in your cooked pearl barley and herbs, stir, add more water if it needs it and cook until your beans and courgettes are softened.
  • Taste and see if it requires seasoning or sometimes a little sugar if tart.

–   Serve into bowls, sprinkle on the basil and dive in with some crusty bread.


Spring Lamb Stew with Vegetables and Pearl Barley

Last thing you need on a Sunday is to have yourself slaving over a Hot Stove cooking a Large Roast Dinner. Especially now the weather is beginning to become slightly warmer.
    In this recipe, yes it does take some time, however, it is all in one pot as you can leave it to carry on with your Planned activities. Of course, it isn’t just a recipe specifically for Sunday’s but I chose this as an easier option for you.

  This Recipe is Light, Fresh and Easy to do.  You don’t want to overpower this either with bold flavours as you want to capture that Lovely Spring taste of the Lamb, the Sweetness of those Peas popping away in your mouth and a favourite of mine…The Pearl Barley being velvety along the stew’s juices.  

  I have used stewing Lamb in this as the bones will give the extra flavour you need.  I personally like to pick up the Bones with my Hands and get every last Morsel I can Find.
  A dish like this  is always a great winner for me when you can pop it down as a talking point on the dinner table, tuck in and not to forget, there is a MUST for some Crispy Bread to mop up those last bits that have been sitting patiently at the bottom of your bowl. 

  This Recipe capture’s seasonality at its best, It can be done quite inexpensively and will have you craving for more. 

Spring Lamb Stew with Vegetables and Pearl Barley:

(Serves 4-6 people depending on size of Lamb pieces you buy)

–   1 Kg Of British Stewing Lamb (approximately 8 pieces) You could use Neck of Lamb also
–  1 Tbsp of Rapeseed Oil 
–  A Splash of Dry White Wine
–  2 Onions Roughly Chopped
–  2 Large Garlic Cloves finely Diced
–   3 Tbsp’s Tomato Puree
–  Homemade Chicken stock or 1 Stock pot (Knorr) to every 4 pieces of Lamb you have 
–  A good handful of Chantennay Carrots ( 200g roughly) Halved lengthways 
–  100g Pearl Barley cooked before hand in a little Chicken stock
–  4 medium potatoes diced into cubes of 6. I used Shannon but any will do.Could even use new season Baby ones.
–  1 Large Leek sliced a centimetre thick.
–  5-6 Spring onions Sliced into 4  
–  Small Sprig of Rosemary chopped finely 
–  100g of Petit Pois
–  A few sprigs of Fresh Mint chopped finely
–  A couple of Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley chopped finely 
–  Salt and Pepper to season


*  Take your Lamb Pieces and pat dry with Kitchen Paper. Season Your Lamb with Salt and pepper if required.

*  In a Heavy bottomed Casserole Dish/Large Saucepan heat up the Rapeseed oil and start to sear of the Lamb just till browned on the outside. Placing each pieces of Lamb into a separate dish once browned on the outside.

*  Fry off your Chopped Onions for a minute or two.

*  Add your splash of White wine to de glaze your large saucepan( allow juices to come away)  Add Your Lamb, Chicken Stock and 2 Tbsp’s of Tomato puree. Cover with water covering everything. 

*  Simmer away for 1/1/2 – 2 hrs adding water when needed.

*  Cook your Pearl Barley to packet instructions with a little chicken stock added and leave to one side.

*  After 2 hours or when the Lamb is starting to soften and theres about 30 mins to go. Then add your Carrots, Garlic and Rosemary.

*  Then pop in your potatoes after another 5 minutes.

*  When your carrots are starting to soften, add your Leeks, rest of your tomato puree and the  Cooked Pearl Barley.

* After another 5 minutes add your Spring Onions and Petit Pois. Only cook for a further 2-3 minutes

*  By now the lamb should be falling off the bones and the veg all cooked. Now Finish with your Chopped Fresh Mint and Parsley

*  Finally, Serve into Bowls with Crusty Bread