Monday, February 14, 2011

Chilli, coriander, chicken and barley salad

I haven't written a cooking post for a while. I recently moved from working 3 days a week to 4 days a week.  Mr Curious have been doing the grocery shopping and a fair share of the cooking while I try to settle into a new work-life equilibrium.

Finally I had a chance to consult a cookbook yesterday. I was looking up recipes for salads that I can bring to work. I am sick of buying overpriced lunch from the food courts near my office.  A decent takeaway lunch in the CBD is around $10, and half the time I didn't even enjoy the food.

I adapted a recipe from the AWW eat well look good cookbook (I bought it through Lifetime Distributor, someone in my office is a distributor).  The original recipe is for lamb backstrap, which is way too expensive for an office lunch.  So I used chicken thighs instead.

Mr Curious and I had some for dinner last night, and I have an extra serve for lunch today.

Step one - cook the barley.  I bought Marco organic pearled barley (from Woolworths, $2.79 for 500g).  This is what pearled barley looks like.

Barley is high in dietary fibre and protein, has a low GI, and contains vitamins and antioxidants (more details here).  Sounds pretty good to me.

The recipe suggested cooking the barley in boiling water uncovered for 25 minutes.  I didn't know whether it was meant to simmer or boiling rapidly the whole way through, so I adjusted the stove up and down a few times.  After the allotted 25 minutes the barley was still really hard.  I ended up cooking the barley for 45 minutes, which turned out to be the upper end of the recommend cooking time on the packet.  Next time I'll leave the stove on maximum heat the whole time.  The barley was cooled for 10 minutes after cooking.

Step 2 - the chicken.  I marinaded the chicken thigh fillets with a tablespoon of Bitton's chilli oil (which is all kinds of awesome) and a tablespoon of chopped fresh coriander, and put them in the fridge for 15 minutes.  Then I pan-fried them for 6 minutes each side, and cut them into strips after cooling.

Step 3 - lemon dressing.  Mixed 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon caster sugar.

Step 4 - once chicken was cooked and barley was cooled, I mixed them together with the lemon dressing and  quartered cherry tomatoes.  It was served with baby spinach leaves and crumbled fetta cheese.

Besides the uncertainly with the barley cooking, the dish was super easy to cook.

Doesn't it look good? And it tasted delicious to boot. The barley was chewy with a nutty flavour, the chilli oil gave the chicken a kick without being overpowering, the lemon dressing was the right level of tangy (I may reduce the olive oil next time though). All the ingredients worked really well together and it was a very satisfying meal.

Here's the cost breakdown per serve:

1 chicken thigh fillet $2.10
33g barley $0.19
60g cherry tomatoes $0.38
25g baby spinach $0.38
25g goat's milk fetta cheese $1.25
1/4 of juice from 1 small lemon $0.25
Conservative estimate of cost of other ingredients and utilities (gas/water) $0.50
Total $5.05

This dish is definitely a winner, and I can see myself using the different components (barley, lemon dressing, chilli oil and coriander marinade) in other dishes.

Do you like bringing lunch to work?  If so, what is in your lunchbox?


  1. This looks so DELICIOUS! I will definitely be giving this a go! :-D

  2. This looks so good, I've never tried barley!

    We also have Lifetime Distributors in our office, I love the assortment of cookbooks :D

  3. Yummo! Looks delicious!! I'm definitely giving this one a go. Just need to get all the ingredients!

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