Welcome to the second in my series of menu reviews from the highly talented Colin Fassnidge, of restaurant 4fourteen, and Australian My Kitchen Rules judge.
I love grains for their versatility and their assistance in helping me to eat a more plant based diet, yet not miss out on the protein. Simply having a stock of Quinoa, Amaranth and Freekeh fills me with a kernel of joy, knowing that not only are they good for me but they are the building blocks of fantastic salads and my passport to culinary delights from the Middle East to the Americas.
So I was very excited to try this Grain Salad with Marinated Goat's Cheese combining Israeli couscous, quinoa and pearl barley.
I decided to use Farro (the unhulled grain from Emmer wheat) instead of pearl barley, partly because I had it to hand, and partly because I prefer its smooth nutty flavour, and the way it retains its al dente texture when cooked. I fell in love with it in Tuscany and have managed to find some beautiful organic Italian farro at Sabato: Girolomoni, but otherwise I stuck to the recipe like glue. I wasn’t able to source amaranth leaves, so had to use baby spinach, as Colin suggested.
I was worried that this would take me hours. Like the last recipe it weighs in at a not insubstantial 14 ingredients, so I cooked all of the grains at the same time, in separate pots and was able to do make the dressing while the pumpkin roasted, so got this on the table in little over an hour.
It says the recipe serves 4-6, but we were eating this for days! In the end I went out and bought another pumpkin and made another batch of dressing to serve with the remaining grains we had so much! I’d say 8-10 servings. Particularly if you choose to serve this as an accompaniment as I did, to a rather delicious slab of rump steak, cut into thin slices tagliata style.
This dish was a delicious symphony of flavours, textures and colour. The silken pumpkin, the tart tang of the cheese and the sharp dressing balanced out by the milder grain flavours. The trio of grains yielded a perfect mouth feel, with a nice crunch from the fennel bulb.
The only disappointment was the dressing, it’s hero Star Anise failing to deliver a real liquorice’y punch, and I felt sorry for the fennel bulb, doing its best amongst everything else going on. But not everyone likes liquorice and fennel as much as me; though next time I will add more of both.
I give this recipe 8.5/10, for its generosity and all its flavours. This is now a firm family favourite.