Spelt Salad With Squash And Fennel Recipe

This grainy and substantial autumn/winter salad recipe with roasted squash and fennel is from The River Cottage Veg Everyday cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. It is a complete meal in itself but also works well as a side dish. Fennel is high on my list of favourite vegetables so I find it hard to experiment too wildly with this recipe but you could easily use other vegetables based on the season. The following serves 4:

  • 1 smallish butternut squash (about 600g)
  • 4–5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2–3 fennel bulbs, trimmed (any feathery fronds chopped and reserved)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 50g walnuts
  • 200g pearled spelt (or pearl barley), rinsed
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 20g Parmesan, hard goat’s cheese or other well-flavoured hard cheese, grated, plus extra to serve
  • A small handful of parsley, roughly chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 190C/gas mark 5. Peel, halve and deseed the squash, then cut into 1.5cm chunks and scatter in a large roasting tin. Trickle over 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Toss so that the squash is well coated and put into the oven to roast. Meanwhile, cut the fennel lengthways into 6 or 8 wedges.

After 15 minutes, add the fennel and garlic to the roasting tin and turn with the squash and another tablespoon of olive oil. Roast for 20 minutes or so, until the vegetables are soft and starting to caramelise around the edges. Then scatter over the walnuts and cook for 8-10 minutes. By the end, the veg should be tender and caramelised, and the walnuts lightly toasted and fragrant. If you want to serve this as a cold salad, let the veg cool completely; if you’re serving it warm, the veg can go into the spelt straight from the oven. While the veg are roasting, cook the spelt (or barley) in plenty of well-salted boiling water until tender, but still with just a bit of nutty bite; spelt should take 20 minutes (allow a bit longer for barley).

Drain well and leave to cool a little (or completely for a cold salad). Toss with the roasted veg, walnuts and any oil from the roasting tin, the rest of the olive oil, the lemon juice, cheese, parsley and any fennel fronds. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Shave over some more cheese and serve warm or cold.

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