Farro is a grain similar to pearl barley, but it’s dried in such a way that instead of being fluffy and spongy it becomes chewy and nutty. You may have difficulty getting hold of it, but if you can find it you’ll be using it all the time – it has an unusual flavour half-way between rice and couscous (this recipe will also work well with both of these). In Italy it was a major food for the ancient Romans, who used it to make bread, porridge and soup before they got hold of wheat. Nowadays it’s used in salads, soups, stews, even pastas. You should be able to buy farro in good Italian delis, and supermarkets have started to stock it in the special selection aisles. Here’s a recipe for one of my fave salads – give it a go.
Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6. Soak the farro or bulgar wheat in cold water for 20 minutes, then drain. Slice the courgettes across into chunky half-moons and put them into a large roasting tray. Add the remaining vegetables and the garlic cloves and toss together with a good splash of olive oil. Season with pepper and a tiny pinch of salt. Try to spread the vegetables out in one layer, as they’ll roast better this way (use 2 trays if you have to). Roast in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, removing the trays and carefully shaking them now and then, until the vegetables are cooked through and crisp around the edges. Sprinkle a little vinegar over the vegetables as soon as they come out of the oven and set aside to cool. When cool, tip on to a large chopping board, add the fresh herbs and chop finely.
Place the farro or bulgar wheat in a large saucepan, cover with fresh cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until tender, and drain well. Dress with olive oil and the lemon juice, season with salt and pepper, and toss with the roasted herby vegetables. Scatter over the reserved fennel tops and serve.