I finally got my wish and the weather in Bristol is sizzling hot. Too hot for my Greek-born kitty, who having lived here now for almost 4 years is no longer used to relentless summer heat. It looks as though she has not managed to shed enough of her thick fur as this heatwave has caught her by complete surprise! Poor thing! I hate seeing her suffer so I’ve turned into an annoying helicopter cat mom walking after her with iced filled water bowls, which she sniffs at and walks off. Moments later I catch her drinking remnants of some smelly rainwater from a bucket I left in the garden. Aaaah cats!!
One thing this relentless heat does to me is to force me out of bed at the crazy (for me! I realise that many people get up at this time – I used to) time of 7 am in an effort to keep my newly established running routine going. It’s painful, I am not a morning person in the slightest and I don’t think I will keep this habit once it gets cool again (I tease Duncan that I’ve turned into an annoying morning person who does not understand why everybody isn’t getting up with the sunrise – he is NOT worried) but right now this is the only way I can run without getting a heatstroke. I love sleeping in and I don’t usually have any desire to be up at the crack of dawn but I’ve got to admit there is something nice about it too – the world is nice and quiet and after your run, you get to sit in the garden and hear nothing apart from chirping birds. It’s so nice!
Recipewise, all I am craving in this heat are salads, sorbets (I have one on the go right now) and cold coffees. This salad is surprisingly simple and contains few seasonal ingredients but it’s a joy to eat and thanks to chewy farro and some chickpeas, it’s substantial enough to keep you full for ages. I sometimes vary some of the ingredients by adding in a little fresh fennel or shredded young green cabbage but the core of this salad remains the same and we eat it for lunch all the time so I thought I would share. It has a satisfying mixture of flavours and textures and it’s fragrant with lemon and fresh basil (although mint works nicely too), which I’ve managed to grow from seed for the first time this year and which I am therefore putting into everything right now.
Farro is a lovely grain, traditionally eaten in the Middle East, that makes a great addition to salads. It’s nutty and chewy and doesn’t go soggy. I tend to cook a cup or two ahead of time and then simply use it to bulk up my salads throughout the week. It goes really well with grilled vegetables and it’s easy to cook too – you cook it like pasta, in plenty of water. If you cannot have wheat (farro is a wheat grain) simply swap it out for quinoa, red or wild rice. I hope you’ll enjoy this simple salad as much as we have.
- 120 g / ½ cup dry farro (or quinoa if GF)
- 2 ears of corn
- 2 small zucchini, cut into thick slices
- olive oil
- 20 cherry tomatoes
- 1 red pepper
- 4 celery sticks (or 2 long stalks)
- 1 large spring onion
- 1 cup cooked chickpeas
- 10 g / 1/3 oz fresh basil (or mint) leaves, finely shredded
- Rinse farro well and cook it in plenty of water until tender but still chewy – I find that 35-40 minutes is the sweet spot. Drain and allow it to cool.
- Heat up a griddle pan on a low heat. Brush the corn with a small amount of oil and place on the preheated griddle pan. Grill, turning every few minutes, until cooked and lightly charred all over. Once cool, shave the kernels off with a sharp knife. Start on the dressing while the corn grills.
- Brush zucchini with a small amount of oil on both sides, season and place on the hot griddle pan. Allow them to cook undisturbed until you get nice char marks on one side, flip and cook until you get the char marks again. Take the zucchini off the pan and allow them to cool and chop into smaller pieces.
- Prepare the remaining vegetables by cutting cherry tomatoes into quarters, pepper and celery sticks into thin slices and mincing the spring onion very finely.
- Combine cool farro with chickpeas, grilled zucchini, corn kernels, remaining vegetables and shredded basil in a large bowl.
- To make the taste of garlic a little less punchy, combine grated garlic with 2 tbsp of lemon juice in a small bowl and set aside for 10-15 minutes while you crack on with the rest of the salad.
- Combine all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl or a jar with a lid – add another tablespoon of lemon juice if liked. Stir vigorously to combine or put the lid on the jar and shake very well. Season with salt, pepper and chilli to taste.