This is a fresh, creative dish using farro – Italy's rustic staple and an ancient grain believed to have sustained the Roman legions. Nicco Pizzimenti from Ladro in Melbourne talks us through how it's made.
- 300 g farro (see Note)
- 200 ml equal quantities of water and vinegar
- 3 Lebanese eggplants
- ½ red chilli, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed, finely sliced
- 2 tbsp parsley, chopped
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 bunch mint, roughly chopped
- 2 stalks celery heart, finely sliced
- 500 g fresh ricotta
- 1 pomegranate, seeds removed
- 4 shallots, finely chopped
- salt and pepper
- extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar (optional)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Rinse and pre-soak the farro grains in water one day in advance, then boil in salted water until al dente, which should take 20–30 minutes, depending on varieties.
In the meantime, thinly slice the eggplants. Season with salt, and place in a colander in the sink. Rinse and pat dry with kitchen towel. Blanch them in a stock made of same quantity of water and vinegar for 2 minutes.
Cool them off and pat them with paper towels to absorb any extra water. Marinate the eggplants in the olive oil, salt, chopped chilli, garlic and parsley.
In a large bowl, mix the farro with finely chopped shallots, celery hearts, mint leaves and pomegranate. Add the eggplant and the ricotta. Dress with good olive oil, pepper and salt. If you like, add 1 teaspoon of red vinegar.
• Not all varieties need to be pre-soaked, so check the individual cooking suggestions on the back of your packet.