Braised pearl barley with chicken and tarragon butter

Murdoch Recipe Article Lead - narrow
Murdoch Recipe Article Lead - narrow 

You could roast a whole chicken instead of the breast fillets if you like. Carve it and serve drizzled with the tarragon butter.


1.25 litres (44 fl oz/5 cups) chicken stock

2¼ tablespoons olive oil

¼ large fennel bulb (200 g/7 oz), chopped

1 carrot, chopped

200 g (7 oz) pancetta, rind removed, chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

300 g (10½ oz /1¼ cups) pearl barley

3 teaspoons thyme leaves

1 bay leaf

4 x 220 g (7¾ oz) chicken breast fillets, skin on

40 g (1½ oz) unsalted butter, chopped

steamed green beans, to serve

Tarragon butter

60 g (2¼ oz) unsalted butter, chopped

3 teaspoons chopped tarragon


1. Place the chicken stock in a saucepan and bring to the boil.

2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium–low heat. Add the fennel and carrot and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the pancetta and cook for 1 minute, then add the garlic and cook for a further minute, stirring occasionally.

3. Add the pearl barley, thyme, bay leaf and 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) of the hot chicken stock, stir to combine and increase the heat to high. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes. Taste the pearl barley to see if it is cooked. If it still needs a little more cooking, stir through the remaining 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) chicken stock (bring the stock back to the boil first) and simmer it for a further 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, brush the chicken breasts with the remaining oil and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the chicken, skin side down, and cook for 5 minutes, or until golden. Turn and cook for a further 5 minutes, or until cooked through. Loosely cover with foil and set aside in a warm place to rest.

5. To make the tarragon butter, combine the butter, tarragon and a pinch of salt in a very small saucepan. Cook over low heat until the butter is just melted.

6. Remove the bay leaf from the pearl barley risotto and stir through the butter. Spoon the pearl barley risotto onto plates. Slice the chicken breasts and place on top with the green beans alongside. Drizzle with the tarragon butter and serve.