Autumn has arrived. The clocks have now been wound back. The days are getting shorter but the mornings are much brighter. I do love this time of year, especially in this place we live. The days begin with a crisp freshness in the air that surprises the lungs when you step outside. Some mornings you awaken to a rolling fog that conceals every sight, yet makes the familiar morning sounds much clearer. You can’t see a damn thing but you can listen to the feeding birds flitter and flutter and occasionally you jump at the sound of an overhead blast from a gas burner as it gives flight to a hot air balloon coasting along the ridges and valleys somewhere above. When the fog gently gives way, the surrounding landscape is washed clean as far as the eye can see. The hinterland is resplendent with green rolling hills and sapphire skies and the ocean is warm and glistening. I love this time of year, except for one thing – its signals that Winter is not far away – and I don’t do the cold very well. You win some, you lose some.
To celebrate the arrival of Autumn I thought I would create a dish that epitomises the change in season. I wanted to make something nourishing but not heavy; a nod towards Winter without admitting its looming presence. I came up with this recipe for a Cumin Roasted Carrot and Farro Pilaf with Herbed Dressing. The pilaf combines the golden colours of Autumn with the wholesome and earthy flavours of sweet roasted baby carrots nestled on a bed of chewy farro pilaf all brought together with a tangy crème fraîche dressing piquant with garden herbs.
I used farro as the pilaf mainstay but sometimes it is hard to find so you could substitute with pearl couscous, barley or brown rice for a gluten free version. Farro is a variety of green wheat that can be used in soups, salads, stews or as a substitute for pasta and rice. When cooked it is chewy with a mild, nutty taste, so in this pilaf recipe I cooked the grains in vegetable stock for added flavour. The pilaf can be eaten warm or at room temperature (my preference) for a satisfying lunch or as a side dish alongside a slow cooked piece of lamb.
Happy Autumn everybody! Let’s get in the kitchen and make the most of the abundance it brings.
- FARRO PILAF
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 cups roasted farro
- 2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1/2 cup Italian parsley leaves, chopped
- 1/2 cup mint leaves, chopped
- CUMIN ROASTED CARROTS
- 500g baby carrots, cleaned and leaves removed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- salt and pepper
- SPICY PEPITAS
- 1/3 cup pepitas
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon chilli powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt flakes
- HERBED DRESSING
- 1/3 cup crème fraîche
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped mint
- 1 tablespoon water
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium saucepan and sauté garlic and shallot until soft. Add the farro and stir to coat the grains.
- Add the vegetable stock. Bring to the boil then cover and simmer for around 45 minutes or until the stock is absorbed and the grains are tender.
- Transfer to a bowl and stir through 1 tablespoon olive oil, the lemon zest and almonds. Season to taste. When cool stir through the chopped parsley and mint.
- Preheat your oven to 200 degrees celsius for the carrots.
- In a small fry pan toast the pepitas with the olive oil, chilli powder, ground cumin and salt until golden. Remove from heat and set aside.
- For the herbed dressing combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
- On a baking tray lined with baking paper lay out your baby carrots, drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with ground cumin, salt and pepper. Lightly toss until evenly coated and roast for around 25 minutes until the carrots are tender but not too soft.
- To assemble the salad spoon the the farro onto a serving platter and top with the baby carrots. Drizzle over the herbed dressing and sprinkle with the spicy pepitas.
- If the farro absorbs all the stock before it is tender add a little water and continue cooking.