It’s been another cold, grey and rather soggy day in Rome. The rather sad looking inflatable Father Christmas the family opposite have bound to the balcony railings has been blown upside-down and now his head is in a plant pot. I think I know how he feels.
The market was uncharacteristically quiet this morning, none of the usual bussle and choas. I felt a momentary wave of panic, maybe something terrible had happened? Or maybe Roma football team had suffered and the most humiliating loss the night before, this is Testaccio afterall, the home of the Roma clubhouse, fans make pilgrimages here? No, if that was the case everyone would look grumpy and deflated. Maybe everyone was simply hiding their head in a Pot ?
I talked to my fruttivendolo Vincenzo for a while, watching him trim cicoria while I ate two clementines and pretended to understand when he broke into a Rant about something complicated, the parking maybe, in heavy and wonderfully blasphemous Roman.
I arrived home with two very handsome bulbs of fennel with green wispy, feathery tops like the headdresses of Las Vegas showgirls, two bunches of carrots, 2 large purple onions and a rope of yellow ones.
For lunch I chopped a head of fennel into thick half moons, did the same with a red onion and then cut 4 carrots into unruly chunks. I chucked everything in a baking tin, doused the whole lot with plenty of olive oil and Maldon salt and slid the tray a fairly hot oven – about 200°/ 400F I think – for about 40 minutes, until the vegetables were soft, shriveled and just starting to caramelize and char at the edges.
But rewind, while vegetables were roasting I cooked some farro which I am notoriously slap dash about, no soaking, no hour-long simmers which leave the farro too soggy and mushy for my taste. I cook farro like rice, plunging it into plenty of salted boiling water and then cooking it at a lively simmer for about 25 minutes until the farro is tender but still slightly nutty and chewy, then I drain it. I never cook less than a cup /125g of farro at a time which works out at about 4 nice servings when cooked, it keeps really well it the fridge and I am always grateful when it’s on hand.
So farro ready, I pulled the vegetables from the oven, shriveled indeed, but how gloriously shriveled, soft and sweet and deep with flavour. Ah the joys of vegetables doused in oil, seasoned with salt and roasted in a hot oven. Lunch.
Farro with roasted fennel, carrot and red onion
It was extremely good. The red onion, fennel and carrot are a particularly good roasted vegetable combination, one to remember, and the farro makes a perfect foil, robust and nourishing but not righteous, it’s nicely chewy, almost sweet and delightfully nutty.
I left the door open while I had lunch which meant a bit of a draught, but lots more light and a perfect door framed view across the courtyard to the other balcony where he still had his head in the plant pot.