The 5-2 Challenge. Ancient Grains. Farro Pilaf with Swiss Brown Mushrooms, Silverbeet and Broccolini

Farro Pilaf With Swiss Brown Mushrooms, Silverbeet and Broccolini

After a long weekend of unfettered overindulgence the focus of my my next fast day was on wholesome, nourishing and restorative eating. Recently there seems to have been a resurgence in interest in cooking with ancient grains. Widely acknowledged to be healthy, flavoursome, easily digestible and rich in fibre these grains pack a nutritious punch and are considered to be very, very good for you.  On my last visit to Little Italy to restock my pantry I managed to pick up a packet of farro, an ancient grain said to be eaten by the legions in Roman times. To my mind a perfect grain for a fast day meal.

Farro is similar to pearl barley, but  dried in such a way that instead of becoming soft and glutinous when cooked stays firm with a slightly chewy texture and nutty flavour. It is often used as an interesting addition to salads, soups or stuffings and can  be substituted for rice in risottos and pilafs. I used  Farro Perlato. Pearling removes the inedible hull that surrounds the grain and most recipes are written for this kind of farro.  Practically this means the grain doesn’t require pre-soaking and cooks up quickly in about 25 minutes.

My fast day meal consisted of a farro pilaf jam packed with mushrooms, and greens sourced from my father’s winter garden; silverbeet and broccolini. A very hearty and satisfying meal. As I discovered a little farro goes a long, long way. The grains plump up to double their size upon cooking.  All in all this was an incredibly filling 298 calorie meal. Which just goes to show that there is a lot to be said for cooking with whole grains and foods on fast days.

Breakfast 2 Cups  Tea


Lunch 1 Mandarin


Mid Afternoon 2 Cups Tea



1 Serving Farro Pilaf With Mushrooms, Silverbeet and Broccolini

2 Cups Tea




Total Calories  


Farro Pilaf  with Swiss Brown Mushrooms, Silverbeet and Broccolini

Serves 4 ( 298 calories per serve)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided (240 calories)
1 red onion, finely chopped (46 calories)
1 garlic clove, minced (4 calories)
1 cup farro perlato (704 calories)
2 cups hot chicken or vegetable stock (40 calories)
300 g Swiss brown mushrooms, sliced (66 calories)
1 cup silverbeet or spinach, shredded (7 calories)
1 bunch broccolini, sliced on the diagonal into bite sized pieces (71 calories)
1/2 cup Italian parsley leaves, finely chopped (11 calories)
3 sprigs thyme leaves stripped from their stem and finely chopped (3 calories)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper or to taste

HEAT oil in a heavy-based saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté  until soft and translucent.
ADD farro and stir to coat the grains. Then add the hot stock. Season with salt and pepper to taste and bring to the boil.
REDUCE heat to low. Cover and simmer until farro is tender but chewy and liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes.
MEANWHILE heat the remaining oil in a wok or shallow fry pan. Stir fry mushrooms, silverbeet and broccolini until just tender. Add parsley and thyme. Stir well to combine. Remove from heat and set aside.
REMOVE farro from heat and fluff with a fork. Stir through the mushroom, broccolini and silverbeet mixture. Serve.

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5 Responses to The 5-2 Challenge. Ancient Grains. Farro Pilaf with Swiss Brown Mushrooms, Silverbeet and Broccolini

  1. This looks delicious! I love farro and yet have not made any. Great recipe.

  2. Darryl Ferguson says:

    I tried it a 2 months ago for the first time. I thought it was pearl barley. was nicely surprised. We have just started the 5-2 diet this week after 6 weeks in Spain and Greek Islands. I’m loving the fact that you have done so much of the hard work for me.
    Thank God the Greek Salad comes in pretty low in cals too.

  3. The 5-2 diet is a snap once you have figured out what to eat. I couldn’t bear the thought of eating just a boiled egg, and a cup of soup. Or processed diet food. As long as I have something to look forward to on my plate on a fast day I’m happy. I find it so much easier to have a ready reference of calorie counted recipes. Hope you find it useful too.

  4. Victoria Parnaby says:

    Hi there, your recipes are amazing and a god send – thank you. Just one thing. Exactly how much constitutes a serving of 298 cals in this recipe? I also had the same question for the tuna and bean salad I did last Thursday but didn’t have time to ask the question. Did I miss an important bit of info somewhere? Sorry if I’m making you repeat yourself…. 🙂 Victoria

    • Hi Victoria

      I usually try to break down the recipes into cup serves but obviously forgot for this one. Probably dished it up without measuring out the finished meal in cups. Judging from experience I would say 298 calories here would be equal to 1 1/2 cups of pilaf. I like to keep a high ratio of vegetables to grains to pulses on fast days so that I feel like I am sitting down to a substantial meal.

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