I must confess, I do love my slow cooker. It is not in itself a thing of beauty, being a rather chunky model from the eighties, (my mother in law kindly passed it on to me) but it really does turn simple ingredients into dishes of beauty, in a way that is quite magical.
A day or two ago I mentioned that I was going to be experimenting with a new dish, and would share the recipe if it turned out well. I am pleased to report that it did indeed work, so here is my recipe for Slow Cooked Chicken, Vegetable and Pearl Barley Stoup. And before you wonder, no that isn't a spelling mistake...but this recipe starts as a stew, and then you turn the leftovers into soup...stew + soup = stoup!
The best time to make this is on an overcast Winter's afternoon, when you have the afternoon to potter at home. Although I know it is perfectly safe, I don't feel comfortable leaving the slow cooker on whilst I am not at home.
In a large frying pan, brown some chicken pieces. I prefer to use thighs, but you use whatever you like. I tend to use bone-in but skin-off, but again, go with what suits you. When they are nicely browned, put them into the slowcooker. Soften a chopped leek in the frying pan, then throw in a selection of vegetables. I used a carrot, cut into pound-coin width rings, broccoli, green beans and peas. Pour over a bottle of cider (round about a pint) and 200ml of chicken stock. When it comes to the boil, pour into the slow cooker, over the chicken. Stir in half a teacup (about 4tbsp) pearl barley, and a good teaspoon of dried tarragon. Pop on the lid, and leave on high for 5 hours or so.
The heavenly scent should start to permeate your home before long, and you will feel very domestic goddessy as your dinner cooks whilst you potter. The lovely thing about this is that it is packed full of vegetables and other healthy ingredients, so as well as tasting good, it does you good.
At the end of the cooking time, I carefully poured of most of the cooking liquid, back into the frying pan, and thickened it with a little cornflour, and then stirred in a tablespoon or so of creme fraiche. The creme fraiche is not essential, but it really lifts the whole dish.
I served it with some really delicious sunflower seed bread to mop up the juices. The leftovers went into the fridge, and made an appearance at dinner a day or so later as soup. I took out the chicken, and shredded the meat. I blitzed the veggies and stewing liquid briefly, then put this into a saucepan along with the chicken to heat up. I was then struck that some dumplings would be lovely in it, so I whipped up a quick batch, simmered for 20 minutes and then served. Leftovers are one thing, and always useful, but what I love even more is when the leftovers let you reinvent them, to make a whole new dish.
Do let me know if you make this, and how you get on! Tarragon and chicken and apple is one of my favourite combination of flavours!