Try this fragrant reworking of a classic combination in this barley chicken recipe

SERVES 4
A barley chicken recipe which isn’t a stew? The flavours and textures of this wonderful dish allow these two ingredients to shine in a whole new light. 
Serve with Markus Schneider Kaitui Sauvignon Blanc £15.50 (http://www.footballerswines.co.uk/fwproduct/markus-schneider-kaitui-sauvignon-blanc-15-50/)
Ingredients
  • 4 chicken boneless, skinless
  • breasts
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 2tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 8 sage leaves, chopped
  • 4 large slices (or 8 smaller ones)
  • air-dried ham or pancetta
For the pilaf
  • 25g butter
  • 50g pancetta, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 sticks celery, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 large red pepper, deseeded and sliced
  • 250g pearl barley, rinsed 1tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 600ml chicken stock
  • 200g chestnuts, peeled and cooked
  • 1tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • olive oil for shallow frying
  • small bunch fresh sage leaves

Method

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°f/ Gas 6. Wash and dry the chicken. Mix the oil, thyme and sage together, season and spread over the chicken. Wrap each breast in one or two slices of ham and secure with fine string or a cocktail stick, then brown on all sides in a large, deep flameproof casserole. lift out and set aside.

Make the pilaf in the same pan. Melt the butter and gently fry the pancetta, garlic, onion, celery and pepper for about 10 minutes. add the barley, cook for about 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, then add the thyme, 1tsp of salt and plenty of black pepper. Pour in 500ml of stock, bring to the boil, cover and cook in the oven for 10 minutes.

Nestle the chicken into the barley, but don’t completely bury the pieces. Cook, covered, for another 30 minutes, by which time the liquid should be absorbed and the barley cooked. leave to rest, covered, in the switched off oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the chestnuts in the remaining stock until they are hot through and the liquid just absorbed. Stir the chestnuts and parsley into the pilaf, and check the seasoning. Heat a shallow layer of oil in a frying pan and when hot, cook the sage leaves for 30 seconds or so until crisp – drain on kitchen paper. Serve the chicken with the pilaf, scattered with the sage leaves.

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