1.25-1.4kg organic free-range chicken
2 celery sticks, sliced
1 large onion, roughly chopped
600g carrots, thickly sliced
3 fresh bay leaves
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp salt
150g pearl barley
150g dry-cured bacon lardons
600g leeks, cleaned (see box, p64) and sliced thickly
3 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves picked
for the parsley dumplings
100g self-raising flour
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
50g shredded suet
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1. Put the chicken into a deep, snug-fitting pan. Add the celery, onion, half the carrots, the bay leaves, peppercorns, and salt. Cover with 2 litres cold water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover, then simmer for 1 hour until the chicken is cooked, turning it halfway through. Lift the chicken onto a plate, cover and set aside to cool slightly. (You can do this a day ahead and leave the chicken to cool in the liquid.)
2. Strain the cooking liquid into a bowl, then return it to the pan, discarding the veg. Add the pearl barley, bring to a simmer, cover, then cook for 35-40 minutes until tender. Meanwhile, remove the chicken meat from the bones, discarding the skin, and tear it into small pieces.
3. Melt the butter in a large flameproof casserole (at least 4 litre capacity), add the bacon lardons and fry gently for 1-2 minutes until lightly golden. Add the remaining carrots, leeks and thyme and stir together well. Cover and cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes.
4. Add the pearl barley/stock mixture to the veg along with the chicken. Season and bring back to a simmer.
5. Meanwhile, for the dumplings, sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Stir in the suet and parsley, then add 75-100ml cold water – just enough to make a soft, sticky dough. Using a spoon, divide the mixture into equal-size balls and drop them on top of the stew. Cover and simmer for a further 20 minutes until the dumplings have puffed up and a skewer inserted into one comes out clean. Serve the stew in deep bowls.
- Add any other root veg you like along with the leeks and carrots – we love parsnips or swede.
- This merits a premium Rhône white or a nutty Meursault – both are rich styles of white wine with somewhat savoury notes.