It seems like an age since i’ve cooked with chicken thighs but because pumpkin day is very nearly upon us I thought this oven-baked chicken thigh and pumpkin barley risotto was the perfect way to celebrate. By looking through my most recent posts you could almost assume that i’ve become fully vegetarian and you wouldn’t be far from the truth. With The Viking a true veggie I find it so much easier these days just to make one meal rather than the way I used to do it and make two versions of everything. Nowadays I simply leave it up to the reader to make the decision on what suits them. For instance, what used to be a veggie sausage stew is now simply a sausage stew. Sure, the way I cook it is with vegetarian sausages but any sausages would work, so why point out the obvious?
I truly believe that there’s been a revolution in the UK when it comes to vegetarianism and veganism, so much so that it’s not really even discussed much any more. There are so many mainstream restaurants who offer vegan food as a matter for course. Which is rather brilliant.
However, back to my thighs. Well, my chicken thighs to be precise. I happen to find myself home alone this weekend and so i’m treating myself to my beloved chicken thighs. Still the very best part of the bird. There are no arguments to be had so don’t bother. Skin on and bone in is as always my preferred choice but feel free to ruin this dish how you like. (Oh and just for any veggies or vegans out there, you could easily swap out the chicken thighs for large flat mushrooms or aubergine which would be divine.) And here in this dish the chicken thighs are so sweetly succulent they compliment the pumpkin so well, both caramelising wonderfully together as they roast. I love an oven-baked risotto too as it’s utterly hassle-free but pearl barley makes such an excellent alternative as they suck all those glorious juices up and become wonderfully plump.
When it comes to feeding the hoards, my chicken thigh rules are that 2 per person is OK, depending on how much carb is being served with them, although I would easily eat 3 for supper.
- 6 – 8 chicken thighs – skin on, bone in
- 1 medium cooking pumpkin (i like harlequin or crown prince) – thickly sliced, skin on
- 5 cloves of garlic – whole, skin on
- 1 medium onion – chopped
- 2 sticks celery – chopped
- 1 fennel bulb – chopped
- fresh herbs – I used rosemary and lemon thyme
- a handful of hazelnuts
- 250g pearl barley
- 1 glass white wine
- 1ltr good quality vegetable stock
- 100g crumbly cheese such as feta or Wensleydale
I’m using a large oblong ceramic roasting dish for this as I think it works nicely and makes the dish look a little homely but any kind of dish or shallow pot would work, as long as it can go into the oven. Something with a lid is good but not essential because you can use foil. Pre-heat the oven to 180C
Place all the veg and herbs into the dish , season well with salt and pepper and then lay your chicken thighs, skin side up on top of the veg. Season well, wrap in foil and roast in the oven for 40 minutes. (You don’t need any oil as there’s plenty of fat in the chicken skin but ff you’re using skinless thighs or doing the veggie version then use the aubergine and mushrooms in the same way as the chicken, just ensure you use really thick slices of both and drizzle them with olive oil.)
Take the dish out of the oven, remove the foil and carefully take the chicken off the top of the vegetables. Tip in the pearl barley, pour in the wine and 2/3rds of the stock and stir well, then place the chicken thighs back in, this time skin side down. Place the foil back on the dish and roast again for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and roast again for 10 minutes, then turn the thighs back over and roast again for a final 20 minutes so the skin is nice and golden and crispy. You may need to top up the moisture level on the whole dish occasionally with the left over stock.
When it’s gloriously golden, take it out of the oven and crumble the cheese over the dish and let it sit for 5 mins before serving.
eat and of course, enjoy!