There are mangoes everywhere at the moment. We are bang in the middle of the summer mango season and they are so perfectly ripe, sweet and juicy that I can’t resist picking them up whenever I’m at the shops. Obviously, the best way to eat mangoes is simply sliced, greedily, with the juices running down your chin, but they are fabulous in both sweet and savoury dishes.
As the temperature in Sydney is predicted to be over 30°C every day this week, we will be living on salads and ice cream (possibly the perfect summer diet) so I’ve been experimenting in the kitchen to find some meals and desserts to use up this glut of tropical fruit. Mangoes pair particularly well with chicken, so I’ve come up with this very summery salad: Chicken, mangoes, fresh greens, salty feta, bulked out with nutty, chewy barley, all drizzled with a punchy, zesty, garlicky lemon dressing. So good, so healthy and so tasty.
Barley isn’t as trendy as some of the more recently popular grains like quinoa, teff or freekeh, which is good for us as it’s still very cheap and full of fibre, vitamins and minerals. As a species we have been eating it for a really long time – barley has been cultivated by humans for over 10,000 years! It is usually hiding in the supermarket near the packet soups, or near the other dried grains and pulses. It keeps for ages, and while I like it best in a salad like this, it is an excellent way of bulking out winter soups too. If you can’t find any barley, this salad would also work perfectly with cous cous, bulgur or even jasmine or basmati rice. This recipe is very flexible and will feed two hungry people with leftovers for lunch the next day or four for a light meal.
Let me know if you try this recipe in the comments below, or using the hashtag #daysofjay on Instagram. Happy cooking!
Chicken, Mango & Barley Salad
for the dressing:
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 100 ml olive oil
- 75 ml white wine vinegar
- 50 ml lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp whole seed mustard
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
for the barley:
- 1.5 litres water
- 1 chicken stock cube
- 250 g pearl barley
for the salad:
- 2 medium chicken breasts
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 125 g mixed salad leaves
- 1 small cucumber, sliced
- 1 red onion, sliced
- 2 ripe mangoes
- small bunch mint
- 100 g feta cheese
- salt & black pepper
- Combine the ingredients for the dressing in a small glass jar. Shake well, taste (it should be fairly tart to offset the sweetness of the mango) adjust seasoning if necessary, then set aside.
- In a medium saucepan bring the water, chicken stock and barley the boil. Lower the heat to a steady simmer, use a spoon to skim off any foam, and simmer for 30-35 minutes, or until the barley is chewy but tender. Drain and rinse quickly under cold water, then set aside to cool.
- Use paper towel to pat the chicken breasts dry, then season well with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat, and when hot add the chicken breasts to the pan. Cook for 4 minutes each side, or until cooked through (see note) then remove from the pan, cover loosely with tin foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, divide the barley between four plates. Top with salad leaves, cucumber and onion. Slice the cheeks of the mangos away from the stone, then using a small knife cut the flesh into squares. Use a large serving spoon to remove the mango flesh from the skin and add to the salads.
- Thickly slice the chicken against the grain and divide between the plates. Top each salad with some fresh mint leaves and crumble over the feta. Pour over plenty of dressing, season with a little salt and pepper and serve immediately.
TIPS & TRICKS:
This is an excellent recipe to prepare in stages as then it can just be an assembly job, getting you in and out of the kitchen as quickly as possible. I often cook up a double batch of barley the evening before (make sure to double the water as well) as it keeps in the fridge for several days and can be added to all sorts of meals to bulk them out.
The chicken can also be cooked the night before, but if doing so it’s probably better to poach it. Half fill a medium saucepan with water, bring to the boil, add about 3 teaspoons of sea salt then slide the chicken breasts into the water. Turn off the heat, then cover and allow to poach in the hot water for 20-30 minutes. Transfer to a suitable container and chill in the fridge until needed.
Chicken breasts vary greatly in size. A medium sized chicken breast is about 200g / 7oz. If you are dealing with enormous pieces of meat (which seems to be the only thing that the supermarkets in Australia sell) it is best to cut the breasts in half horizontally giving you four thinner slices of meat. This means they will cook evenly – a thick, fridge-cold piece of meat will be dry on the outside by the time it is cooked through to the middle.
Make sure to let the chicken rest before slicing – this makes sure that the meat is juicy and delicious.