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Pheasant and pearl barley risotto recipe

A dish from Farlows‘ Marketing Manager, Ian Welch, who prefers to use pearl barley rather the more usual risotto rice for this recipe as its nutty and earthy flavour better enhances the taste of pheasant. However, you can use risotto rice to replace the pearl barley if you prefer. Serves two.

pheasant with pearl barley risotto

Pheasant with pearl barley is the perfect way to use meat left over from a roast or to use leg meat or breast meat and makes a change from a rice-based risotto.

Risotto recipe for pheasant with pearl barley


For the pheasant breasts

  • Pheasant breasts, 2
  • Butter, 10g
  • Olive oil 1 Tbsp
  • Garlic cloves, 2, crushed flat with the back of a knife
  • Thyme sprigs, 3 or 4, left whole


For the risotto

  • Butter, 25g
  • Olive oil, 1 Tbsp
  • Pearl barley, 150g
  • Shallot 1, finely chopped
  • Celery stick 1, finely chopped
  • Garlic clove 1, crushed or grated
  • White vermouth, 100ml
  • Thyme leaves, 1 Tbsp
  • Hot chicken stock, approx. 500ml (made from a stock cube is fine!)
  • Parmesan, a handful, grated
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste


Heat a frying pan over a medium to high heat, add the butter and olive oil, then add the crushed garlic cloves and thyme sprigs and fry until it becomes aromatic. Add the pheasant breasts and cook for a couple of minutes on each side, basting with the flavoured butter and oil, until they are well–browned. Remove the breasts from the pan, cover with foil and set aside.

In a separate pan, add half the butter with the olive oil and gently fry the shallot and celery, stirring regularly to prevent browning. When the shallot and celery have softened (after 5 to 10 minutes) add the crushed garlic and the pearl barley, stir thoroughly, then add the vermouth and half the thyme leaves and continue cooking until the vermouth has become incorporated.

Now add a little of the stock, stir well to mix and, once absorbed, add more, stirring regularly. Repeat the process until the stock is used up and the pearl barley is beginning to become tender but still has a little bite (about 30 minutes). You may need a little more, or a little less stock, but 500ml is usually about right. 

At this stage, season to your taste with sea salt and freshly grated black pepper, slice the pheasant breasts then add them to the barley and stir through. After a couple of minutes take the pan off the heat, add the remaining butter and the grated parmesan and stir through.

Check for seasoning and serve scattered with the remaining thyme leaves.

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Incorporating a few thickly sliced mushrooms – variety of your choice, but chestnut are ideal – when you fry the pheasant at the beginning adds a new dimension to the recipe. They work beautifully with pheasant, barley and thyme.