Starters

Warm salad of farro, roasted vegetables and chestnuts

Farro is such a beautiful wheat grain, bursting with fibre, protein and other good things, as well as being chewy and delicious. If you can’t find it, substitute it with spelt, although it’s much softer. This is a glorious autumnal or winter dish, and one that I often adapt according to what I have by way of vegetables.

Keep the beetroot in, as its colour is lovely against the grains and adds earthy sweetness. I haven’t included them in the recipe below, but the Confit shallots with herbs and garlic (page 153) are absolutely wonderful tossed into the mix as well.

Serves 4–6 as a side.

  • 150 g (5½ oz) celeriac
  • 150 g (5½ oz) carrots
  • 200 g (7 oz) raw beetroot
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon sumac
  • leaves from 1 lemon thyme or thyme sprig
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt flakes, plus extra for seasoning
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 50 g (1¾ oz) vacuum-packed chestnuts
  • 140 g (5 oz) pearled farro
  • 2 tablespoons mixed seeds, such as pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and sunflower seeds
  • 1 handful flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
  • extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

For the dressing

  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons walnut oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  1. First, get your vegetables on the go. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Peel the celeriac, carrots and beetroot, and cut them into 3 cm (1¼ inch) chunks. Pop the vegetables into a large roasting tin in a single layer.
  2. Whisk together 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the honey, sumac and thyme, season with sea salt and black pepper, and pour over the vegetables. Toss to coat.
  3. Roast for 30 minutes, then add the chestnuts, shaking to coat them in the oil. Roast for 15 minutes more or until everything is softened and golden.
  4. While the vegetables are roasting, put the farro, the ½ teaspoon sea salt and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a saucepan.
  5. Pour in 700 ml (24 fl oz) water and simmer for 20–25 minutes or until the grains are tender – bear in mind that farro retains some bite and chewiness when cooked. If the water is absorbed before the grains are done, add a little boiling water; if there is excess liquid when cooked, drain this off.
  6. While the grains are cooking, make the dressing – just put all the ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake well.
  7. As soon as the farro is ready, add half the dressing and toss – do this while the grains are still hot so they absorb the flavours. Set aside to keep warm.
  8. Transfer the cooked vegetables to a serving platter or bowl. Add the farro, seeds and most of the parsley. Gently toss with enough of the remaining dressing to generously coat. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary – the farro might need quite a bit of salt.
  9. Serve warm or at room temperature, scattered with the remaining parsley and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.