As regular readers know I am partial to a risotto. But with my loose adoption of the Nordic Diet, which spurns simple carbohydrates, I’ve not been able to enjoy them as freely as I’d like to. Trina Hahnemann instead suggests using whole grain risotto rice, but I’ve struggled to find it in Sweden – and even struggled to lay my hands on any on a recent trip to Florence. So instead, like a heroin addict trying to find a cure, I found solace, not in cough medicine, but in spelt. Sure, it doesn’t give you quite the same smack as a true risotto, but it packs twice as much protein and less sugars, so is better for you, without being too worthy.
In Sweden spelt is called dinkel, which is a name I rather like. Partly because it reminds me of Claudia Winkleman, but also because it just sounds so innocent. I bought a packet of dinkel grains from a brand called Saltå which I can’t recommend highly enough. Now, when I look on my shelves, I see a line of beautifully designed packages, replete with an iconic, lino cut image of an old fashioned mill, stamped onto reassuringly thick brown paper. I’ve got their whole grain spaghetti, their spelt flour, their red rice, their quinoa, their amazing porridge oats and now their spelt. Many of their products are bio-dynamic, most are organic, all are superbly made and none have ever let me down. They’ve managed to make the terribly dull world of goody two-shoes carbs, just a little bit sexy.
Not knowing quite what to do with my spelt I consulted Twitter and was sent in the direction of the Sharpham Park website which suggested using pearled spelt as a risotto rice substitute. I’ve shamelessly stolen the term “speltotto” from the chaps at Sharpham, although maybe Dinkelotto would be more fitting. As ever, my beetroot fetish continues unabated and it always goes well with smoked mackerel, a splodge of goat’s curd and a sprinkling of chives. Previous experience of making beetroot risottos has meant that I’ve given their recipe a sharp tweak to get the maximum beet-impact.
100g Dinkel / Spelt per person 1 smoked mackerel 1 finely chopped shallot 1 glass of white wine Goat’s curd or goat’s cheese 4 beetroot Chives 1 litre of stock Olive oil Butter Salt Pepper
Peel the beetroot and dice them very finely. Then add them to a pan, cover with the stock and simmer until the beetroot is tender. Reserve the liquid, for this will be your ruby red stock. Sharpham Park suggest grating, but if you do this, I think you miss out on texture and colour.
Fry the shallot until tender. Add the spelt as you would do with risotto rice. Then after it has crackled for a minute add the wine. Let it huff and puff like a thirsty dragon and then add the crimson beetroot stock and reserve the beetroot solids. Continue until the spelt has absorbed the liquid and has softened which could take anywhere from 20 minutes to 50! (You can reduce the cooking time by soaking the spelt overnight). Add the beetroot pieces towards the end.
Then when the spelt is cooked beat in some butter and season with gusto. Integrate the smoked mackerel and goat’s cheese. And finally, sprinkle over some chopped chives.
It’s an earthy, toothsome, beast, so works well with something piercing to offset the deep flavours – a decent glass or two of dry German Riesling would hit the spot. My final piece of advice, aside from not wearing white, is to make a big batch and enjoy it for lunch the next day and also as alarmingly coloured arancini.
We still love to go on trips around the UK, staying in BnBs or camping in search of a good meal or two - hence, Around Britain with a Paunch. Quite often the trips have been prompted by Diana Henry's Gastro Pub Cookbook. Here's where we've been to: