Farro is no doubt one of the most fondly recalled ingredients for anyone who has had the pleasure of eating their way through Italy. It was during our stay at the delightful Masseria Santa Lucia in Alessano, Puglia that we first experienced farro. It was a farro and smoked scamorza arancini, a seriously palate pleasing mix of farro, stuffed with molten, smoky cheese, rolled in breadcrumbs and pan fried. What’s not to like?
Farro is a petite, light brown hued grain that offers an intriguing alternative to pasta and rice. Farro is most similar to barley with an equally impressive nutritional profile. With complex flavours, a pleasant nutty taste with hints of oats and barley and a solid nutritional pedigree, this great grain has serious gastronomical potential. Farro, Italy’s rustic ancient staple grain, while once unheard of in Australia, is slowly making its way from the tables of Italy onto the menus of home chefs and high profile restaurants throughout Australia.
How Does Farro Fare For Healthy Eaters?
Farro is high in fibre, magnesium, and vitamins A, B, C and E. If you suffer from Celiac disease, farro should be avoided as it contains gluten, however, many people who are gluten intolerant seem to tolerate farro very well. Because farro is an ancient heirloom quality grain that has not been hybridized, it’s gluten quantities are naturally very low. For those among us who are concerned, as we all should be, with GMOs and chemical pesticides in our food, most farro is grown and harvested in the mountain regions of Tuscany and Abruzzo without chemical pesticides or fertilizers.
Feasting On Farro – How to Enjoy This Heirloom Grain
Farro behaves much like Arborio rice given that they share a similar starch. In fact, in areas of Italy, farro is used to make heavenly risotto-like dishes called farottos. We love farro as a unique and comforting side or in our summer salads mixed with any number of greens and vegetables humbly dressed with little more than a splash of good quality olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Farro is also an easy winter staple in hearty, warming soups and stews in part because it retains a pleasant bite. While in Italy, a farro and borlotti bean soup we enjoyed in a little hole in the wall family run restaurant inspired us to create our own. You don’t have to hop a flight to the province of Perugia in Umbria in order to enjoy all that farro has to offer. Here we offer our Hearty Veal Shank & Farro Soup to introduce you to Italy’s beloved rustic staple.
Hearty Veal Shank & Farro Soup
For the stock
4 Veal shanks*
3 Litres water
1 Medium carrot chopped in 3
1 Stick celery (and leaves) ditto
1 Onion peeled halved
Splash Olive oil
*or use 2 veal shanks and some cheaper veal bones
For the soup
3 medium carrots medium dice
4 sticks celery medium dice
1 brown onion medium dice
1 leek sliced
Tin diced tomato
Veal shank meat (retained)
A sprinkle of lemon zest
For the stock
Heat a heavy based stock pot and add olive oil.
Season the veal shanks well with salt and brown well all over in the pot. Add carrot and celery and brown.
Cover with water and bring to the boil, turn down and simmer for a minimum of 3 hours.
Strain stock retaining only the shanks.
Strip the meat off the shanks (it should fall off) and dice/shred rustically.
For the soup
Sweat leeks and onion in a splash of olive oil until soft.
Add stock and farro and bring to the boil
Turn down to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes
Add vegetables and tomatoes cook for another 10 minutes
Add diced veal bring back to the boil.
Season well with salt and fresh black pepper
Serve sprinkled with parsley & a touch of Lemon zest