Farro, courgette, mint & walnut salad

Farro, courgette, mint & walnut salad

Insalata di farro e zucchini

By
From
Tuscany
Serves
6
Photographer
Helen Cathcart

It is said that the Roman soldiers were victorious as, quite simply, their diets were better than their competitors’. Centurions were given farro, an ancient grain, to carry with them on journeys by foot. This was boiled up into a thick porridge (oatmeal) – sometimes in their metal helmets – over a fire. The slowly released carbohydrate kept them well-nourished and enabled them to fight for longer than the other soldiers.

Farro, also known as (but slightly different to) spelt, einkorn or emmer, is available in health food shops and some supermarkets. It has a nutty taste and chewy texture – we love it. It is used in the north of Tuscany to make soups, salads and even cakes. The pre-cooked version, dicocco, takes only 10 minutes to cook whereas the uncooked whole grain can take up to 25 minutes, so make sure you know which one you have. It is low in gluten but if you want to make the salad gluten-free, substitute farro for brown rice or gluten-free oat groats.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
2 courgettes, cut on the diagonal into 5 mm thick slices
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
salt
freshly ground black pepper
small handful spring onions, cut in half horizontally and lengthways into strips
150g farro, brown rice or oat groats
1 sprig rosemary, leaves picked
1 garlic clove, peeled
fresh red chilli, finely chopped, to taste
or 1/4 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 ripe avocado, stoned, peeled and sliced

To serve

Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
large handful roughly torn mint leaves
25g walnuts, roughly chopped

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a baking tray with baking parchment. Put the sliced courgettes in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Toss to combine, then lay them on the lined tray (keep the bowl for the onions). Roast for 10 minutes (there is no need to turn them over), then remove from the oven. Toss the spring onions in the bowl in the residual oil, and scatter them over the courgettes (keep the bowl again for the dressing). Roast for another 7–10 minutes, until both vegetables are lightly browned, then remove from the oven and set aside.
  2. While the vegetables are roasting, bring a pan of generously salted water to the boil. Wash the uncooked farro grains in a sieve under cold running water and drop them into the pan of boiling water. Cook for 10 minutes if using pre-cooked farro, or 25–30 minutes if using the uncooked grain. It should swell during cooking but still have bite to each grain, so keep trying it when you are near the end of the cooking time until you are happy with the texture.
  3. While the farro cooks, make a 'battuto' with the rosemary, garlic, a good pinch of salt and pepper, and chilli. Mix the battuto in the bowl with the remaining oil and the balsamic vinegar to make the dressing. When the farro is cooked, drain it well and mix it with the dressing in the bowl.
  4. Arrange the dressed farro on a large wooden board or on a serving platter. Lay the slices of avocado over the farro, followed by the roasted courgettes and spring onions. Drizzle over 1 tablespoon of good olive oil and finish by scattering over the mint leaves and walnuts. Serve straight away or leave to cool to room temperature.
Tags:
Italy
Italian
Caldesi
Tuscany
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