Every year I try to find something new to try using the turkey leftovers from Christmas. After the festive meal we strip the carcass of usable meat, reserving the remainder for turkey soup and stock. We enjoy some of the meat cold, but the remainder is packaged up into meal sized portions (in our case to feed 3/4 people) and frozen. We have favourites of course such as Midwinter Turkey Chilli Beanpot, Turkey & Bacon Fricassée and Turkey Flan with Leeks & Cheese . I had been meaning to try pearl barley in place of rice to make a dish similar to a risotto, so when I came across this recipe I just had to give it a go especially as I needed a recipe that was quick and easy. Since writing this post I have been reminded through the comments of the reported health benefits of Barley Water, often recommended for kidney health. Barley Water is mentioned in Wikipedia as a remedy for cystitis, but does not specifically mention the kidneys: there are numerous other sites which do make the link though, but to which I am not prepared to add a link. My mother used to use the water in which barley had been boiled and flavour it with slightly sweetened lemon for a version of Lemon Barley Water that was so much better than any brand name bottled variety. (You can also cheat and use it to water down a commercial lemon – or orange – squash.)
The recipe comes from the website Allrecipes.co.uk, which is a good source of ideas. The original was called Lemon Barley Pilaf with Chicken. This is my version which uses Turkey and Bacon. It can be made with either fresh or pre-cooked turkey (I have given instructions for both) adding the bacon for extra flavour. (Chicken can be used if you prefer.) A smaller quantity of leftover meat will be needed than fresh meat and, of course, ready cooked meat is added towards the end of the cooking time as it just needs reheating. I ‘tweaked’ a few of the other ingredients a little and also used baby Spinach in place of rocket. The instructions for cooking the pearl barley did not seem to give it long enough, so in line with another recipe I make regularly (Pot Roasted Vegetables and Pearl Barley) I pre-cooked the barley for a short while (about 15 minutes) before adding it to the remaining ingredients. This recipe got the thumbs up from my family, particularly because of its delicious fresh lemony flavour, so I shall definitely be making it again. I think it could equally well be made as a conventional risotto using arborio or a similar risotto rice.
Lemon Barley Pilaf with Turkey & Bacon
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled & diced
1 celery stick, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
225g pearl barley
600ml chicken stock, hot
1 tbsp chopped fresh or 1 tsp dried thyme
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
150g frozen peas
125g/40zs chopped bacon or leftover ham (optional)
325g/12ozs fresh diced turkey/chicken – extra if not using bacon
250g skinned roast turkey/chicken, in small pieces – extra if not using bacon
50g baby spinach (or rocket as in the original recipe)
1. Place the barley and stock in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until partially but not completely cooked. Check liquid level reguarly to make sure it does dry out, adding a little extra water if needed.
2. Put the oil in a heavy saucepan and heat over a medium heat. Stir in the onion and if using fresh meat add the diced fresh turkey or chicken and bacon (cooked meats are added later) and cook until it starts to change colour. Add the carrot, celery and garlic and stir into the mixture. Cook gently for about 1o minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften but without browning.
3. Stir in the cooked barley along with its cooking stock and bring back to the boil. Stir in the thyme and lemon zest. Turn the heat to as low as possible, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes more, stirring occasionally until the barley is almost soft.
4. Add peas and stir well. Cover the pan and simmer for a further 4–5 minutes.The barley should be soft and the liquid should disappear but be careful the mixture does not stick so check and stir regularly. Add the lemon juice. If needed, a little more boiling water can be added. Season to taste.
5. If using leftover ready cooked meat then dice it well and add to the pan. Add the baby spinach leaves, lightly stir through the mixture and cook for no more than 1minute so it is just wilted.
6. Serve immediately in a bowl with a scattering of grated parmesan (optional).