Mushroom farro, I’m told it’s very in vogue – who knew? I guess I think Farro should be spared the trials of fashion – it’s a so called ancient grain that’s been eaten since pharoahs were in nappies, the world was flat and you could walk from Indonesia to Australia across an ice bridge – it deserves some rest. However, as rice is maligned and people try and recapture the healthy way of eating which led to very long lived cavemen and cavewomen the “alternative” grains have seen a faddish resurgence. Spelt (which is actually a type of farro), farro itself, quinoa and buckwheat all seem to pop up all over the internet. I must admit, therefore, that I’m a relatively late convert. Inherently sceptical of foods which insist they’re more nutritional yet somehow end up tasting less good I’d always been somewhat hesitant to try them. I’d stuck with rice or other wheat based products like couscous, even convincing G that couscous can be inherently delicious if you only follow a couple of simple tricks. Only occasionally would I venture into the brave realms of quinoa just to prove to myself that I was smugly right all along and these alternative grains were kinda rubbish. Then I had a mushroom farro “risotto” in a restaurant and two things happened. Firstly, the farro tasted amazing – nutty and complex with more bite than rice but still a pleasing creaminess. Secondly, much to my chagrin and humility I didn’t get the same tired carb spike that would normally be the price of a delicious risotto. Since then I’ve been cooking farro left, right and centre and I’ve finally hit on my ideal mushroom farro recipe after some trial and error which uses a technique for cooking mushrooms I shared a few weeks ago which really should be part of any cook’s arsenal in my opinion.
Like all my posts, there are tips and tricks for cooking this dish ahead of time at the bottom of the post. Mushroom farro is perfect for making in advance as either parts or all of it can be made up to days in advance!
I’ve read through a lot of mushroom farro recipes in the last few months. All of them try and get mushroom flavour into the dish in different ways. Most cook the mushrooms in the pan and then add the farro and liquid. This is ok, but I find it doesn’t really concentrate the mushroom flavour and ends up a little insipid. Some others call for dried wild mushrooms which although very meaty and delicious don’t actually have a great texture, and make a mushroom farro that is more savoury than discernably “mushroomy”. I even tried making a mushroom stock and using that to cook the farro. That does produce a great result but is incredibly wasteful and pretty time consuming. The best result I got by far was when I didn’t try and combine the cooking of the mushrooms and the farro. Instead, I cooked the mushrooms separately, making a mushroom base which you stir into the cooked farro. I’m still only just now getting to grips with how versatile this mushroom base is, on top of mushroom farro or risotto, it makes an amazing soup, pâté, spread, Beef Wellington, pasta sauce, pizza base, ravioli and deep fried bar snack. Not to mention you can make it in huge quantities and freeze it. I’ve started always having some in the freezer in small batches and dropping it into things I think could do with a mushroom boost, like beef stews. I also keep a little bit in the fridge, where it keeps for about 2 weeks, and spread it on toast for breakfast or to fill an omelette. Pretty soon I’m sure G will get sick of me putting mushrooms in everything but it hasn’t happened yet!
You could stop there and just finish the farro like a classic risotto (remember, you can cook risottos in advance too!) – a little butter and some parmesan cheese and you’d have something wonderful. Delightful on its own or maybe even inside a mushroom farro stuffed roasted pepper. However, I wanted to amp it up a little further. By chopping chorizo and shiitake mushrooms very small and cooking them over a high heat you get a deeply savoury, umami packed crumble with a texture ranging from soft and chewy to crunchy and crumbly. It’s simply divine and thrown directly on top of the mushroom farro it gives you a savoury first kick which then mellows into the long finish of “mushroomyness”. If you want to make it fully vegetarian then you can definitely omit the chorizo, maybe add some firm tofu fried with the shiitake with just a hint of chilli oil. Actually that sounds great and I might give it a go on a vegetarian day!
I hope you enjoy this recipe – I also really hope this way of cooking mushrooms unlocks some other possible recipes which you share with me either in the comments or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 300g mushrooms – my favourite variety for this are chestnuts or portobello but nay variety will work
- 2 banana shallots finely minced
- 300g farro
- 500ml chicken stock (you can use water – see note below)
- 150g shiitake mushrooms finely diced
- 150 chorizo finely diced
- 1 large knob of butter
- Handful of freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Finely chopped flat leaf parsley
- Take the mushrooms, roughly chop and add to a food processor. Blitz until puréed, add to a dry pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until thick and relatively dry. For more tips about cooking mushrooms this way, there’s a whole post on it here. Be a little gentler than normal seasonoing these mushrooms. The combination of chorizo and parmesan are both quite salty and so you want a bit more flexibility than normal, you can always increase seasoning at the end.
- Add a little olive oil to a saucepan on a medium high heat, season lightly with salt and pepper, and sauté the shallots until golden and translucent but not coloured – about five minutes. Add the farro and cook for another five minutes until the farro is lightly toasted. You will need to stir occasionally to ensure neither catches on the bottom of the pan.
- Add the stock, it should be enough to just cover the farro – if not top up with water, if too much then only add enough to cover. Turn the heat to high and boil the farro. You want to use a good stock here, one that doesn’t have a lot of salt (which will make the farro too salty) and has a good gelatin content which as it reduces will make the farro feel unctuous and creamy. If you can’t find a good stock or want to use water, I’d recommend dissolving a little powdered gelatin in the water. Of course if you want to be fully vegetarian or just don’t feel like it, it isn’t a major deal to leave out the gelatin.
- You will boil the farro for around 20-25 minutes – you’re aiming to drive off almost all the liquid. If you’ve got a really strong hob you might find all the liquid goes before it’s fully cooked in which case just top it up. Farro has quite a bit of variation in cooking time so your best bet is to taste it – you’re looking for a little bite but not hard or chalky at all.
- Whilst the farro is cooking, add the chorizo and shiitake mushroom to a hot pan on a high heat with a touch of olive oil. It’s important the mushrooms and chorizo are both finely diced, maybe 5mm cubes, as we want to create a crumbly texture. I find it easiest to cut the chorizo into 5mm slabs and then cut those slabs into strips and then cubes. Stir the chorizo and mushrooms to ensure they don’t catch and burn. After a couple of minutes the chorizo will be crisp and the mushrooms browned and roasted. Remove from the heat until needed.
- Once the farro is cooked, stir in the mushroom mixture and cook together for 10 seconds or so. It will look a little grey at this point, don’t worry it will become a more autumnal brown. Add the butter and parmesan cheese and stir a little more to combine, taste and adjust seasoning – it normally needs more pepper but not too much salt. Remove from heat and place in a warmed serving dish, sprinkle the reserved chorizo and shiitakes on top of the mushroom farro and then a brushing of parsley – Enjoy.
TimedEating tips and tricks for coking mushroom farro ahead of time:
- The mushroom mixture can be made a week in advance. It also freezes very well, to thaw place a little in a sauce pan with a dash of water and cook gently to reheat and remove the moisture you just added.
- The shiitake, chorizo crumb can be made hours in advance. It can be cooled and reheated but loses a little crispiness.
- The farro can be cooked and cooled without or with the mushrooms. Like cooking a risotto, don’t add the butter and parmesan and reheat by adding a splash or two of water to the pan and then gently reheating the mushroom farro. Personally I prefer reheating the farro without the mushrooms and then stirring in the mushrooms and butter/parmesan as I find it reheats more easily. You won’t lose any flavour from this method and it makes the whole thing take 5 minutes to assemble!
- The whole dish can be frozen before the addition of parmesan and butter. To reheat simply thaw and then reheat the mushroom farro as above – I personally find it too much faff to freeze the mushrooms separately from the farro but it will reheat slightly more easily that way.