A chicken and barley soup to come home for


Hello! It's nice to be back here after a couple of weeks away from blog-land. I have loads of great posts lined up for this little space, but in the meantime...wanted to quickly share the below recipe...

Tim and I have just wrapped up a brief visit to Hong Kong and it's pretty nice to be back home with the kids, on our cold, quiet and sodden farm. We were there for a trade show, as part of a NSW Dept of Trade and Investment producer delegation, and it was, I think, a success. We/Mandagery Creek Venison exposed ourselves (in a tasteful way) to some potentially significant new customers and also found ourselves sharing ideas and experiences not only with a bunch of fantastic producers, but also professionals from different nationalities and business backgrounds.

Working and living from home, from a farm, can sometimes feel a bit insular, so we count ourselves very lucky to have had this experience; essentially a big fat injection of motivation, endorsement for what it is we are doing and excitement about doing it even better.

Now back home, it's time to follow up, reflect and most important of all, catch up with Ali and Tom. Plus, because we're all feeling a bit under the weather (runny noses all round), it's soup this house needs, and lots of it. So today I made a big pot of the below. It is the culinary opposite from the dumplings, noodles, cocktails and strangely coloured teas and iced milk drinks we'd been partaking of over in Honkers. And just perfect.

Chicken, barley and vegetable soup to come home for

This is the perfect comfort food - it's easy to make (which is in itself, very comforting), really good for you (again, a comfort), easy to eat and completely delicious. Make double if you have a pot big enough; it's great for the kids' lunch thermoses and/or just to have stashed in the fridge or freezer for an emergency refuel. Serves 4-6.

1 brown onion, peeled and finely diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
3 tbsp thyme leaves
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 celery, finely chopped
4 rashers of beautiful, fat double-smoked bacon, chopped into strips
400g free-range chicken thigh pieces, chopped into small-ish pieces
4 cups of chicken stock (or more depending on the consistency you're after)
1 parmesan rind (if you have one lying around in the fridge or freezer - no big deal if not - just adds some extra flavour!)
Three or four pared strips of lemon zest
1 cup pearl barley

To serve - extra parmesan, finely chopped parsely, some toasted pepitas (for crunch and goodness) and a drizzle of olive oil.

Heat a couple of glugs of olive oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan on medium. Cook the onion, stirring often, for about five minutes or until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, carrot, celery and thyme and cook for another couple of minutes. Toss in the bacon, increase the heat a little and cook for a few minutes, or until it's cooked through.

Now it's time to add the chicken, increase the heat a little more and cook for two minutes or until the pieces are pretty much all sealed. Pour in the stock, add the parmesan rind, lemon zest and pearl barley. Season well, bring to the boil then reduce heat and let simmer for 30 minutes.

Serve with extra parmesan, finely chopped parsley, pepitas and a little olive oil. Plus of course, some warm, buttered toast soliders.


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