Farro with roasted leeks & smoky-sweet romesco
If I had my way, this smoky tangy-sweet Catalan sauce would find its way into a meal a day. The recipe will make enough for this dinner plus an extra jam-jar full to keep in the fridge for a week or so.
Farro is one of my favourite grains – it has a chewy, almost gummy texture that is so pleasing. Farro is much lower in gluten than most grains, so if you have a mild sensitivity to gluten it might be ok for you. It’s available in most wholefood shops and good supermarkets. If you can’t get your hands on farro, then pearl barley or bulgur wheat would also work, as would quinoa if you prefer it. Just adjust the cooking times accordingly (see pages 184–5).
Use the best jarred Spanish peppers you can find – piquillo are the ones to look out for. If you can’t find baby leeks, normal leeks are fine too. Just wash, trim, halve them lengthways and cut them into 3cm lengths.
SERVES 4–6, WITH SOME ROMESCO LEFT OVER
1 butternut squash, deseeded and cut into rough chunks
12 whole baby leeks, washed
I unwaxed lemon
a few sprigs of fresh parsley, leaves picked
FOR THE ROMESCO
100g blanched almonds
2 slices of good stale white bread (about 40g), torn into chunks
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
1 × 220g jar of roasted red peppers, drained
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 small dried chilli, crumbled, or a pinch of dried chilli flakes
a generous pinch of saffron strands 1 tablespoon tomato purée
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6.
First make your romesco sauce. Scatter the nuts on a baking tray and roast in the hot oven for 10–15 minutes, until golden. While they are roasting, heat a little olive oil in a pan and fry the bread until golden brown all over. Add the garlic and smoked paprika and cook for a further minute, then remove from the heat.
Leaving the oven on, transfer the nuts and toasted bread to a food processor. Add the peppers and blitz until you have a coarse paste – you still want a nice bit of texture.
Tip the whole lot into a mixing bowl, stir in the extra virgin olive oil, sherry vinegar, crumbled chilli, saffron and tomato purée. Season to taste and mix well, adjusting the flavours if need be. Romesco is about a balance of punchy flavours. Too thick? Add a little water. Too sweet? Add a little vinegar. Too sharp? Add a little oil to soften. Leave to one side to mellow.
Next, put the squash on a large roasting tray with the leeks. Drizzle over some olive oil, grate over the zest of the lemon and season. Roast in the oven for 40 minutes until the squash is golden and the leeks are sweet. Meanwhile, cook the farro in salted boiling water for 35–40 minutes, until it is soft but still has a good gummy bite.
Drain the farro, toss with the roasted squash and leeks and a good few tablespoons of the romesco, and finish off with a good sprinkling of parsley.
Ways to use romesco:
- Spread on toast and topped with a slick of goat’s cheese for a quick snack.
- As a dip for baby carrots and spring veg.
- As a marinade for barbecued veg.
- Piled on to roasted veg for extra flavour.
- Tossed through cooked noodles with pan-fried greens.
- Stirred into a bowl of brown rice and topped with a poached egg.
- Next to your morning eggs.
- With flatbread and feta for a quick simple lunch.
- Spooned on top of a bowl of soup.