October 3, 2015 — Dinner Party

Prawn and farro salad

  • 1 hour
  • 2 PEOPLE
  • easy

‘…Big salads are a perfect way to experiment with different ingredients and offer a lighter refreshing meal to cleanse the palate. They’re adaptable and interchange as starters and mains which makes them extremely versatile’

'Prawn and farro salad makes a perfect starter for a fancy dinner or a lighter family meal if you want to avoid heavy carbs...'

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What you need

200g – 300g raw peeled jumbo prawns (depending on appetite)

150ml pearled farro (also sold as farro dicocco) – or pearled spelt

Large handful lambs tongue lettuce

Large handful rocket

One stick celery

150g fresh peas – or frozen

300g fresh broad beans podded weight – or 300g frozen, or 150g green beans (all optional)

1 medium courgette

75g unsmoked pancetta or bacon (optional)

Fresh herbs, such as mint, parsley and chives (optional)


 For the dressing

40ml lemon juice

120ml good olive oil

Good pinch salt and pepper


Dad's Recipe Tales

Ah, farro salad – it must be healthy!

Farro is what the Italians call emmer wheat, an ancient type of wheat grain. I know it as an Italian grain, since there was a time when I could only buy it from Italian delicatessens. It can be purchased as a whole grain (in which case it needs pre-soaking before cooking), but most often it is available in its refined form: semi-pearled or pearled, both varieties of farro processed to remove degrees of bran. The grain provides protein, carbohydrate, fibre, minerals, antioxidants. Some say it’s a healthier alternative to other grains. It’s low in gluten and is said to be easier to digest than high-gluten grains.

I like it for its nutty taste and nubbly texture, but also its ability to express itself with some nutritious dignity in a range of dishes. It has become something of a trend recently, especially in the risotto-style dish ‘farrotto’. So, if you’re looking for a starter for a dinner party, anything with farro is bound to impress – especially if it’s scattered artfully over a delicate and pretty salad. My ‘family’ salad is based on the idea that seafood and farro go well together (I have a fond memory of a squid and farro starter enjoyed in a smart Italian restaurant).

Farro, barley, quinoa and the like, are also useful alternatives or supplements to the main carbohydrates of potatoes, pasta and rice. I will often experiment with them; make something tasty and then wonder why I do not cook with them more frequently.

NB: Farro is emmer wheat and often confused with spelt (T.spelta), another grain in the wheat family. However, they can be used interchangeably as both have similar characteristics and tastes. Diana Henry in her book, ‘A Change of Appetite’ says that pearled spelt makes a better risotto…

How Dad Cooked It

NB: Do mix and match with this salad. Start with prawns and farro and then build your salad with what’s in season, what you like or have to hand.

  1. Cook the farro as for rice. Put 150ml farro in a heated heavy pan (with a lid) and heat. Add 270ml of boiling water, bring back to the boil, lower the temperature to the lowest setting and put the lid on the pan. Let it steam gently for about 20 minutes or until done. Turn off the heat and leave the lid ajar on the pan to keep warm.
  2. Make the dressing. Add all the ingredients to a bowl and whisk.
  3. Use peas plus either broad beans or green beans depending on what is in season. Or just use peas. Pod the peas – and broad beans if using. Add each separately to pans of boiling salted water and bring back to the boil. If the peas are frozen they will probably be done as they return to the boil, test to see that they still have a bite to them. Drain and refresh in cold water, when cold drain again. Cook the broad beans until just tender. Drain and refresh in cold water, when cold drain again. ‘Double’ pod the beans. I know, a tedious job – but it is worth doing in salads (I leave the jackets on in chunkier warm salads or other hot dishes). If beans are being used, wash trim and cut in half, cook as above ensuring they still have a bite – refresh and drain.
  4. Wash the courgette and slice. Stir-fry for a minute in a hot frying pan or wok with a little olive oil. Place in a bowl and set aside
  5. Rinse and dry the lettuce. Wash the celery and slice into pieces.
  6. Fry the pancetta/bacon – if using – in a frying pan or wok. This generates some fat, which is good, supplement with a little olive oil. If omitting pancetta/bacon just add a tablespoon of olive oil to the hot pan.
  7. Fry the prawns in the pan with the oil (or oil and bacon) until they turn opaque and are cooked. Let them get a little colour without over-cooking.
  8. In a large bowl mix the farro, prawns, peas/broad beans/beans, celery and courgette. Add half the dressing – or sufficient to coat the ingredients thoroughly. Taste and season if necessary. Add half the fresh herbs if using and mix again.
  9. Arrange the lettuce and rocket on a large serving dish and arrange the mixture from the bowl over the top. Drizzle more dressing and garnish with the remaining fresh herbs if using.
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