This is a what I had at the time variation on this fine recipe which you probably read too, maybe you made it, maybe you are eating it right now and nodding approvingly – I hope so, it warrants nods of approval and those funny little umm, um, ummm sounds you can only make when your mouth full of something tasty.
I think I may be making this rather alot because it is just delicious.
It’s the combination, nutty, wholesome fortifying farro- the ancient grain spelt – rather like good, nutty brown rice/ barley nuggets soaked in beer but better – the soft, earthy, hearty beans, melting soft, sweet, slightly sticky caramelized onions and the salty kick of pecorino Romano.
A perfect lunch really.
My appreciation is hardly surprising considering that I love all 4 elements in their own right. I would happily eat a bowl of farro with some olive oil and good salt, Stop or lunch on a portion of warm butter beans with plenty of black pepper and glug of Umbrian extra virgin olive oil. I am very conetent to scoff a spoonful of caramelized onions squashed on some bread and equally content to simply snack on a hunk of Pecorino Romano just so standing against the kitchen counter.
All 4 together, a humble but delightful little symphony.
This was a perfect Tuesday morning recipe, nothing complicated but requiring a bit of thought, modest activity and planning, it fitted in perfectly with a morning of cleaning and sorting and clicking away on the computer. My beans were ready, but it wouldn’t have been much trouble to let them simmer away for an hour or so while I pottered away doing lazy cleaning. Chopping the onions provided a tearful but pleasant pause from domesticity and then gently sizzled away alongside the simmering farro while I wasted time on the computer.
Have you made caramelized onions recently, I hadn’t. I had forgotten how delicious they are, and how simple. Yes, they need a little patience, about 1 and a half hours of it, but barely any effort bar the odd stir and sniff, You just slice some sweet (red) onions finely, sizzle them in some warm olive oil with a pinch of salt, lower the flame till it’s gentle and let them soften and then caramelize away for some time until they are floppy and sweet and just lovely.
The farro only needed a 30 minute soak in cold water before I drained it, put it in pan with plenty of fresh water, brought it to the boil and let it simmer for for about 25 minutes until soft, swollen but still a bit nutty. Once the farro and onions were ready , I drained, stirred everything together, perked everything up with a squeeze of lemon, crumbled over the Pecorino and ate my lunch.
The original recipe calls for lentils and feta, a combination which rocks my world, but was not to be. The butter beans and pecorino were delicious substitutes mind.
The caramelized onions will be a permanent feature though.
I think the combinations for this quartet are endless really. Farro could be brown rice or bulgar wheat, even couscous. The beans could be borlotti, cannellini or chickpeas to name just 3. The cheese needs to be punchy and salty I think, so Parmesan, fetta, some ricotta salata could all be very nice. I leave these decisions and experimentation to you.
Farro, beans, caramelized onions and Pecorino
Serves 2 for lunch or 4 as a starter
Inspired by this
- 200g cooked butter beans
- 200g farro soaked for 30 minutes in coldwater
- 3 medium red onions sliced finely into half moons
- olive oil.
- half a lemon
- some crumbled Pecorino Romano
If you need to cook soaked beans start with them first. if your beans are already cooked, get them out of the fridge so they can warm up to room temperature. If you are opening a tin, no rush, you can do that just before you mix everything together.
Warm a very generous glug of olive oil in a large heavy based frying pan and then add the onion and a pinch of salt. Allow the onion to sizzle gently, stir and then lower the heat to medium low. Now leave the onions to soften and wilt and gently gently sizzle and start to get sticky and caramelized for about 1 and 1/2 hours stirring lazily every now and then.
When the onions are about an hour into their sizzling, drain the soaking farro and put it in a pan with plenty of fresh water. Bring the pan to the boil and then reduce the heat to a happy simmer and let the farro bubble gently away for about 25 minutes. When it is soft, swollen but just a little nutty remove it from the heat and drain and leave to sit for about 10 minutes.
Now your onions are caramelized and delicious because you have just tasted them 3 times.
Add the farro and the cooked beans to the onion pan, mix well and squeeze over some lemon juice, taste, DO NOT add more salt, the cheese will do that.
Pour the wine, small glasses, it is lunchtime after all, divide the contents of the pan between 2 plates, crumble over the cheese, leaving it on the table for extra, dribble over more of your nicest oil.