Ingredient of the week……………. spelt

Risotto purists will be screaming abuse no doubt at this bastardised version of such a classic Italian dish, but I make no apology for taking it’s name in vain. I am a lover of a classic risotto, but this more nutty version is good too. Less creamy, yes, but I think the nuttiness and robust flavour and texture of spelt grains more than makes up for this. Widely recognised for it’s health benefits, this ancient grain is hardier and more nutritional than it’s more familiar cousin, wheat. If you aren’t so sure, give this delicious version a go.

Beetroot and Spelt Risotto with Camembert

A nutty and wholesome alternative to a more traditional risotto using pearled spelt berries

Photo by Ian Wallace

Serves: 6

300g pearled spelt grains

750ml-1 litre chicken or vegetable stock

350g raw beetroot, peeled and diced

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 red onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tsp chopped fresh thyme, plus a few leaves to garnish

125g Camembert, sliced

25g grated Parmesan

55g pecan nuts

1 red whitlof, shredded

salt and pepper

Soak the spelt grains in boiling water for 20 minutes. Drain and shake dry.

Place the stock in a saucepan and heat gently until it just starts to simmer.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion, garlic, thyme and some salt and pepper for 5 minutes until softened. Add the beetroot and fry for a further 5 minutes.

Add the spelt and stir-fry for 1 minute until all the grains are glossy. Add the wine and simmer until reduced, about 3 minutes.

Then add half the stock and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add the remaining stock and cook, stirring until the spelt is tender and most of the stock absorbed, about 10 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in half the Camembert and all the Parmesan, cover pan and leave to sit for 5 minutes.

Heat a small frying pan and fry the pecans for 3-4 minutes until lightly browned.

Spoon the risotto onto plates and serve topped with the remaining cheese, pecans, the shredded whitlof and a few thyme leaves.

Recipe of the week……………….spelt.

Mushroom spelt risotto with melted camembert

Spelt is one of the world’s oldest wheat grain varieties. It is great as an alternative to rice in a risotto as it retains a wonderfully crunchy texture and unlike rice, you can add the stock all at once and let the risotto simmer away on the stove – making it low maintenance as well as delicious.

Spelt and Mushroom risotto 2

Serves: 4

300 g spelt grains

15 g dried porcini

150 ml boiling water

100 g butter

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tbs chopped fresh thyme

500 g mixed mushrooms, wiped clean and chopped

150 ml red wine

1 litre chicken or vegetable stock

50 g Parmesan, grated

150 g Camembert, sliced

salt and pepper

freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to serve

Soak the spelt grains in boiling water for 20 minutes. Soak the porcini in the boiling water for 15 minutes. Drain spelt and shake dry. Drain and chop the mushrooms, reserve the liquid.

Melt half the butter in a saucepan and gently fry the onion, garlic and half the thyme over a low heat for 10 minutes until soft but not browned. Add the mushrooms and porcini and stir-fry until starting to soften. Add the spelt and stir for 1 minute then pour in the wine and boil until it is all but absorbed.

Meanwhile bring the stock and reserved porcini liquid to the boil in a separate pan. Add 750 ml to the risotto and cook gently over a low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the stock is almost absorbed and the spelt, tender. Add a little more stock if needed (any left over stock can be reserved, chilled in the fridge for up to 3 days).

Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the Parmesan and half the Camembert, cover and leave to melt for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter in a small frying pan and add the remaining thyme leaves. Cook gently over a low heat for 2-3 minutes until the butter turns a golden brown. Serve the risotto topped with the remaining camembert and drizzled with the thyme butter.

Tip: Spelt is available from larger supermarkets as well as health food stores.