Salad, in winter? Of course! There’s no better time to be loading up on whole grains, nuts, seeds, herbs and vegetables. We can turn the humble salad on it’s head and come up with warm, filling and umami-rich Winter Grain Salads that can act as a side – or the main event.
So which grains go with what cuisines or flavour profiles? Let’s mill over (pun intended!) some of your choices..
Produced by roasting green wheat over a flame, Freekeh has a deep, nutty flavour that is amplified by firey dressings made in a Moroccan style. Paired with Harissa, Pomegranate Molasses and a good neutral oil you’re on your way to a North African adventure. You can accent your salad with roasted carrots and almonds, then soft mint leaves and a squeeze of lemon for brightness.
Glossy, mahogany coloured grains are a hidden treasure – they’re packed with protein (7g per 45g of uncooked black barley), fibre and flavour! Try Black Barley in a Spanish-style salad with red and yellow saffron-roasted capsicum, Manchego cheese, flat leaf parsley and a warm chorizo and sherry vinegar vinaigrette.
Spelt has all the benefits of a wheatberry, but with less bitterness and a subtle sweetness that makes it incredibly versatile in salads. Commonly found added into bread, you can also sprout spelt to increase its nutritional value. Pair it with roasted fennel, cherry tomatoes, a preserved lemon dressing and spiced chickpeas for added pulse power.
A favourite of the ancient Romans, this life-sustaining grain was often made into porridges that would keep a busy citizen on their feet all day. We’ve chosen Farro as our grain in this Warm Olive, Herb and Walnut Salad. Did you know – you can also turn Farro into a divine Risotto? It’s nutty undertones and slightly chewy texture, coupled with high nutritional values (think Magnesium, Vitamin B3 and Zinc) make Farro an amazing grain to add to your dinner rotation.
Winter Grain Salads – Farro, Warm Olive, Herb and Walnut Salad
- In a medium pot (around 20cm is good), place the farro, water, and a good pinch of salt.
- Cover, then set over medium-high heat and bring to the boil. Lower the heat to a simmer then cook while still covered for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Cook until tender to the tooth, but still holding its shape. Drain then place back in the warm pot and set aside (but not back over the heat).
- In a large serving bowl, add the olives along with the olive oil, walnuts, green onions, chives, red pepper flakes, jalapeño, honey, lemon juice, raisins, and another pinch of salt. Stir well, adjusting to taste. Remember that this will be a punchy dressing as it will be flavouring the very neutral farro you’ve just cooked.
- Combine the farro and olive mixture in the warm pot, then mix to combine. Taste and add more salt or lemon juice as needed.
- Break up and mix through the persian fetta a little to add a creamy element to the warm salad. Top with the shaved cheese and finely chopped parsley, if you wish.
Eat this salad by itself, or pair it with an Italian-style, whole butterflied chicken. In a food processor or mortar and pestle, make a seasoning paste out of fresh rosemary, sage, thyme, lemon zest, garlic, crushed chilli and salt. Rub this all over the chicken, both skin-side and underneath. Roast or grill to your liking, then serve alongside the Farro salad. For an extra punch of green you could grill or roast some broccolini or tuscan kale very simply with a little oil and salt, then drizzle with high quality olive oil and a squeeze of lemon to finish. This salad will keep in the fridge for several days and improve in flavour, as will most Winter Grain Salads.