farro with pumpkin and slow-cooked cavolo nero

this is the most delicious dish that i’ve cooked in ages. it and ribollita are my continuing obsessions and at least partly responsible for the quiet blog, as i’m mixing my way through each of them at least once a week at the moment.

cavolo nero is the common ingredient which is definitely an obsession for me at the moment. i love this black cabbage with it’s rich flavour but lack of horrid cabbage smells and the slightly acidic teeth-clinging qualities which spinach can have.

in the ribollita i only cook it for about ten minutes but in this recipe it is fried over a low heat for a long time – c30 mins until it starts to crisp around the edges. this intensifies the flavour, brings out some sweetness and creates the perfect foil to the rest of the dish – sweet roasted squash (i use my favourite, crown prince) and the gentle nuttiness of the farro.

the recipe is from suzanne goin’s sunday supper at lucques and is an accompaniment to grilled squab (i roasted some chicken thighs) which are marinated with honey, bay, sherry and coriander – this was a bit sweet for me. a pomegranate salsa is served on the side which works equally well if it is just stirred into the farro dish. the dish is equally good hot or at room temperature and is, i think, my favourite recipe from the book, so far.

suzanne goin’s farro with squash and cavolo nero (serves 6)

300-400g kabocha squash, diced (i used crown prince pumpkin and peeled it as well as dicing)

180ml olive oil

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons thyme leaves

c450g cavolo nero leaves, cleaned, centre ribs removed and chopped

½ a sprig of rosemary

2 chiles de arbol, crumbled (i used a couple of pinches of mulato chilli flakes)

2 onions, sliced plus ½ an onion cut into three wedges, with the root still attached

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 small carrot, peeled and cut into three pieces

1 stalk of celery, cut into three pieces

c300g farro (spelt)

60ml sherry

30g unsalted butter (use extra oil if you want to make this vegan)

4-6 shallots, thinly sliced

salt* and freshly ground black pepper

preheat the oven to 220c. bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.

toss the squash with 30ml olive oil, 1 teaspoon thyme, ¾ teaspoon salt and a healthy pinch of pepper; spread out on a baking tray and roast for 15-20 minutes until the squash is tender.

blanch the cavolo nero in the rapidly boiling water for 2 minutes, drain, let it cool and squeeze out excess water with your hands.

heat a large pan over a medium heat for 2 minutes. pour in 60ml olive oil and add the rosemary spring and half the chilli. let them sizzle for a minute then turn the heat down to medium-low and add the sliced onion. season with ½ a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper. cook for 2 minutes and stir in the sliced garlic. continue cooking for another 5-7 minutes, stirring regularly, until the onion is soft and beginning to colour.

add the cavolo nero and 30ml extra olive oil, stirring to coat the greens. season with a ¼ teaspoon of salt and cook the greens slowly over a low heat for around 30 minutes until they turn a dark, almost black, colour and get slightly crispy on the edges. turn off the hear and set aside, removing the rosemary and chile.

while the cavolo nero is cooking, heat a large pan over a medium heat for 2 minutes. pour in the remaining 60ml oil and add the onion wedges, carrots, celery remaining chile and bay leaf. cook for about 5 minutes until they have begun to soften and turn golden. add the farro, 1 tablespoon of thyme and 2 teaspoons of salt to the pan, stirring to coat the farro with the oil. add the sherry and 1 ½ litres of water, bring to a boil, lower the heat then simmer for about 30 minutes until the farro is tender. drain the farro and spread out on a baking sheet to cool. discard the vegetables.

heat a large frying pan over high heat for 2 minutes. swirl in the butter and when it foams add the shallots, remaining teaspoon of thyme and ¼ teaspoon of salt. stir continuously as the shallots soften and brown in the butter (3-4 minutes). add the farro and sauté, stirring continuously, for another 3-4 minutes, until it’s slightly crispy. add the squash and greens and stir well to combine. taste for seasoning and serve when it is all warmed through.

* this recipe calls for a lot of salt – use your judgement if you want to cut back on it (i did)

suzanne goin’s pomegranate salsa

place 3 tablespoons finely diced shallots, 1 teaspoon lemon juice and ¼ teaspoon of salt in a bowl and let it sit for 5 minutes. whisk in 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses and then 60ml olive oil. stir in the seeds from one small pomegranate and 1 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley. taste for balance and seasoning.