The inspiration for this winter salad came by taking a look in the fridge to see what I had left over from Christmas. There was one lonely parsnip, five happy carrots and half a peeled celeriac to be found. This was a great starting block as these winter root vegetables love to be roasted, bringing out their wonderful sweet flavours and a couple of fresh Rosemary sprigs ( my favourite herb at this time of the year ) a little olive oil will help them on their way towards the salad bowl. I have a wooden shelf above the cooker where jars filled with different dried pastas, grains, pulses and rice sit in readiness to be cooked with. I was thinking of mixing the roasted roots with bulgar wheat but decided upon risoni a small chunky rice shaped pasta. In Italian risoni means big rice and can be cooked and eaten as you would rice. It is great in pilaffs, soups, casseroles, risottos, bakes and salads. Risoni is also known as Orzo; Italian for barley. It somehow has a real comfort food factor too, its hard to explain but when cooked the texture is really nice its sort of soft and creamy and easy to eat!
This salad would serve four if used as a main course salad and six if going with other dishes.
This salad is delicious served warm or cold. If serving warm just allow the vegetables and risoni to cool slightly before adding the rest of the ingredients. Serve warm on its own with a spicy salad leaf mix or roast up a couple of chicken breasts and when they are cool enough to handle tear up the meat with your fingers and stir it into the salad. Some toasted pine nuts would be tasty too!
- 5 carrots ( about 400g )
- 1 parsnip ( about 200g )
- ½ celeriac ( about 400g )
- 2 sprigs of rosemary, leaves only
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- Flaky salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 red onion ( about 120g ), peeled and finely chopped
- 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
- 160g risoni
- Juice and zest of 1 lime ( save a little lime zest to sprinkle on the top )
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp runny honey
- 1 tbsp pomegranate syrup ( optional, try and find some but its not essential )
- 30g fresh mint, leaves roughly chopped ( save some of the smaller leaves for the top kept whole )
- 40g feta cheese, crumbled
- 1 level teaspoon poppy seeds
- Preheat the oven to 200℃ / Gas mark 5
- Peel and chop the vegetables into even size batons, put into a baking tray along with the rosemary leaves and 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add a little salt and pepper and stir to combine.
- Put the vegetables into the oven and roast for 35-40 minutes, stirring half the way through the cooking time. The vegetables should be browned on some of the edges. Allow to cool.
- Meanwhile heat the remaining olive oil in a saucepan and cook the onion over a low heat for 6-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the crushed garlic and cook for a further 3 minutes, do not allow the onion or garlic to brown. Add ½ litre of water, risoni and a pinch of salt to the saucepan. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 3 minutes or until the risoni is just cooked.
- Pour the contents of the saucepan into a sieve and allow to drain and cool. Stir occasionally to prevent the risoni from sticking together.
- Put the lime juice and zest, extra virgin olive oil, honey, pomegranate syrup into a small bowl and whisk to combine.Taste and season with a little salt and pepper.
- When the vegetables and risoni have cooled put them into a salad bowl and toss gently to combine along with the dressing and chopped mint leaves.
- Top the salad with the crumbled feta, lime zest, poppy seeds and mint leaves.
The batons are about 1 to 1.5 cm x 5 to 6 cm.
The Rosemary adds a nice flavour to the vegetables when roasted, you could replace it by using cumin seeds or crushed coriander seeds.
The onion and garlic add flavour to the risoni when it is being cooked, but you could just add the onion in wedges with the other vegetables when roasting and cook the risoni in vegetable stock. The garlic could be stirred into the roasted vegetables a few minutes before they are done.
This zester was given to me by my sister Tess for Christmas. Thanks Tess I love it! When zesting citrus fruit just rub the fruit along the zester a couple of times to remove the zest turn the fruit and repeat counting one two in your head.This prevents zesting the pith which does not hold the essential oils you need and does not taste great.
The lime juice and zest really make this salad dressing delicious and cuts through the sweetness of the roasted root vegetables perfectly. This salad tastes good, looks good and does you good!
Pomegranate syrup or molasses is thick, fragrant and is basically a wonderfully tangy reduction of pomegranate juice.
I first came across it on holiday in Turkey several years ago along with the risoni! So it seems nice to put them back together in this recipe.
A good tip; when you buy your next bag of poppy seeds dry fry them before storing in a sealed jar. The process of dry frying brings out their distinct nutty flavour. Heat a frying pan over a medium heat, when hot put in a single layer of poppy seeds and when they start to pop and jump take them off the heat and allow to cool. Try adding a teaspoon of poppy seeds to your next salad dressing, they look great through a salad and add an extra texture and flavour.
This is a great winter salad using some tasty seasonal winter root vegetables. I love all of the flavours especially the fresh mint and salty feta cheese.
Let me know what you think, its early days for me on my blog and some feedback would be greatly appreciated. Its great to share my recipes with you but even better when I know you are using them. I hope you are liking them so far and there will be loads more seasonal and tasty recipes to come next year!