Roasted Vegetable + Farro Salad with Ricotta and Fennel Seeds

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There is a heavenly place, situated in the suburbs of Melbourne. Murrumbeena to be precise. You may have heard of this place before – Oasis Bakery. However it is not really a bakery as such, it is more of a Middle Eastern wholefoods store and eatery.

There are walls of seeds and nuts. Aisle upon aisle of spices. Every goddamn ancient wholegrain under the sun. Vinegars. Condiments. Not to mention the prepared meals and salads. The freshness and quality of the produce is next to none. It is heaven on earth. And for those of you who have been there before, you are probably nodding eagerly in agreeance.

Farro is one of those delicious ingredients that does not seem to be available anywhere near me. Of course they had some at the heavenly place that I visited last week. I couldn’t wait to get home and make this salad.

This is one of those meals which I make regularly, though I usually use the more readily available pearl barley rather than farro. If you do not have farro I suggest replacing it with pearl barley, but let it be known, farro is FAR superior. Honestly. It is worthwhile hunting some down (and forking out the cash) if you can.

Commonly referred to as a superfood, this ancient grain is highly nutritious. It has more fibre than both brown rice and quinoa, and up to twice the amount of fibre than wheat. It is an excellent source of both protein and complex carbohydrates, so is beneficial to your digestive system, cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, and immune system. It is also low GI so keeps you fuller for longer. Farro boasts high levels of niacin, iron, zinc and magnesium. So it really does live up to it’s ‘superfood’ tag.

This occasion I roasted some vegetables to toss through the cooked grains, though I am looking forward to trying a Spring green vegetable version next – peas, asparagus, broad beans etc. Yum. You can use whatever vegetables you have on hand, mine are only a guide.

Vegan friends can simply omit the ricotta, toasted pinenuts would make a nice creamy substitution.

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Roasted Vegetable + Farro Salad with Ricotta and Fennel Seeds

– 3/4 cup cracked farro
– 3 carrots, sliced into 5mm rounds
– 2 cups diced butternut pumpkin (1.5cm dice)
– 1 beetroot, peeled and sliced into thin wedges
– 1/3 cup fresh ricotta
– handful each of fresh parsley and chives, chopped
– 2 Tbsp fennel seeds
– extra virgin olive oil
– sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C.

Start by cooking the farro. Place your farro in a saucepan with 1 litre of water. Add a pinch of salt and cook on high till it comes to the boil. Lower the heat and cook until tender – about 30 mins. Drain and rinse under cold water. Leave to drain thoroughly.

Place your vegetables on baking trays with big glugs of olive oil and generous pinches of salt. Roast until tender and golden, mine took 35 minutes but this will vary depending on what size you chopped the vegies.

While the vegies are roasting, heat another big splash of oil in a frying pan, add the fennel seeds and gently fry for a few seconds, until fragrant. Immediately remove from heat and pour oil into a cup or similar vessel.

Toss the roasted vegies, cooked farro, mixed herbs, and lots of sea salt together in a serving bowl. Break in chunks of ricotta and toss again gently. Grind on some freshly cracked pepper, then pour over the fennel seed oil.

I squeezed a lemon over mine, because I love lemons.

Serves 4 people. This salad is best served at room temperature but will keep well overnight in the fridge.

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