This stormy week is for full-flavoured comfort food – and this grain bowl provides just that. It’s filled to the brim with hearty autumnal flavours and textures – roasted butternut squash, pan-seared chestnut mushrooms flavoured with garlic and fresh tarragon, slowly caramelised onion and fennel, salted pecans and my favourite bit: herby and juicy oven-roasted grapes. Savoury grains cooked in veg stock bring it all together and turn it into a full meal. Scatter with lots of parsley, sit back and enjoy.
Roasting grapes in the oven is a very simple way to turn these already delicious berries into something remarkable. Drizzling them with a little oil and giving them a quick 15-20 minute roast makes them plump, squidgy and deeply sweet-flavoured. For this grain bowl I seasoned them with salt and pepper and roasted them mixed with thyme sprigs for a classic herby combination. Once piping hot, I drizzled them with red wine vinegar. This makes them deliciously sweet and sour, and the vinegar combined with the juices released by the grapes yields a wonderful instant dressing for the grain bowl.
Leftovers of this sweet and slightly savoury treat are delicious with oat cream on toast, or to spice up any other salad you intend to make this week. And if you like them, you might want to make these more often in a non-savoury version as well: just omit the salt (leave in the thyme and pepper if you like, because it’s lovely), roast the grapes with a splash of maple syrup and mix with just a teaspoon of vinegar after cooking. This turns them into a luxury topping for porridge, pancakes, granola or toast to satisfy your sweet tooth in the morning.
As it’s a flavour I love, you’ll find liquorice-and-aniseedy notes mixed into this grain bowl in several of the elements. The onion rings are slow-cooked and caramelised along with thinly sliced fennel and fennel seeds. And the fried mushrooms are flavoured with liquorice-y chopped fresh tarragon leaves.
As I know not everyone is as keen on the flavour of fennel as I am, you can of course easily replace the fennel bulb with an extra onion. As for the tarragon – along with dill it’s my all-time favourite herb in the world and it’s simply made to go with fried mushrooms, not to mention delicious combined with the roasted grapes. So if you can get hold of it, do add it. Non-optional. Would be my modest advice.
I used spelt as the grain base for this bowl, but any grain will do. It’s equally delicious with kamut, freekeh or cooked pearl barley, or with sorghum or quinoa as a gluten free alternative – or simply use some left-over grains from a previous meal. Enjoy warm or at room temperature for dinner; any leftovers make a delicious packed lunch.
I hope you’ll love this grain bowl as much as we do. If you do, I’d love for you to leave a message in the comment section below, or on my insta. And if you make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on insta; I love seeing your creations!
And if you’re in the mood for more grain bowls, you may also like this zesty version:
Grain bowl with tarragon mushrooms and thyme-roasted grapes – serves 4
- 300 g red grapes
- olive oil
- 4 sprigs of thyme
- 3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 1 medium-sized butternut squash (about 1 kg), peeled and cut into 2 cm chunks
- 1 bulb fennel, halved and thinly sliced
- 2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 tsp. fennel seeds
- 1 tsp. white wine vinegar
- 150 g spelt or other grain of choice (opt for sorghum or quinoa to make this bowl gluten free; in this case, check the label to make sure the grains are certified gluten free and protected against cross-contamination)
- 500 ml vegetable stock (for homemade, see here)
- 400 g chestnut mushrooms, trimmed and cut into bite-sized wedges
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon leaves
- 15 g flat-leaf parsley, leaves only
- 100 g pecan nuts or walnuts
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6.
In a small oven dish, toss the grapes with a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the thyme sprigs, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the grapes start to pop and release their juices. Keep an eye out to make sure they don’t burn. Once plump and oozing, take the grapes out of the oven. Mix in the red wine vinegar, then leave to cool.
Divide the squash cubes over a lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the squash in the oven for 30-35 minutes, until tender and beginning to catch at the edges. Take out of the oven and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy-based frying pan. Add the fennel and onion and sprinkle over the fennel seeds. Turn down the heat to low/medium-low. Stirring regularly, leave the vegatables to gently cook and caramelise for 20-25 minutes. Make sure they don’t burn or crisp up; if they colour too quickly, add a splash of water. When the vegetables are completely soft and lightly coloured, turn up the heat. Stir in the white wine vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Take off the heat and set aside.
In a small pan, bring the veg stock to a boil, then add the spelt or other grain of choice. Cook your grains for the time stated in the instructions on the package, then drain and set aside.
Over a high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan. Working in batches, so as not to overcrowd the pan, fry the mushroom wedges until golden on all sides. When the last batch is cooked, return the previous ones to the pan and lower the heat. Add the chopped garlic and gently cook for another minute until the garlic is soft and fragrant. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper, stir in the chopped tarragon, then take off the heat.
Divide the cooked grains over four bowls. Top with the fried mushrooms, caramelised fennel and onion, roasted squash cubes and roasted grapes. Enjoy scattered with parsley leaves and pecan nuts.