River Cottage Spelt Salad with Squash and Fennel Recipe

Sometimes salad just doesn't cut it in the winter. When the nights draw in and lunchtimes are nippy, you want to indulge in something warm and cosy, which this recipe from the River Cottage Veg book is perfect for. The warm grains help fill you up whilst still getting goodness from the vegetables. The recipe suggests replacing the fennel for leek or red onion wedges, but I think any roasted veg could work really well. Perfect for any leftovers from the sunday roast as well!
Recipe
Serves 4
butternut squash 1 smallish (about 600g)
olive oil 4-5 tbsp
fennel bulbs 2-3, trimmed (any feathery fronds chopped and reserved)
garlic 1 clove, finely chopped
walnuts 50g
pearled spelt (or pearl barley) 200g, rinsed
lemon juice of ½
parmesan, hard goat's cheese or other well-flavoured hard cheese 20g, grated, plus extra to serve
parsley a small handful, roughly chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method
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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