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Over the past six months or so I’ve got really into making risotto. I used to find it rather intimidating, but now I love standing over the stove, gently stirring to make something delicious, elegant but comforting for dinner. I’ve got some delicious, traditional risottos ready to share with you next year – a wonderful crab claw and green pea number for when we’re at the end of spring and on the cusp of summer, and a classic butternut squash one I just did not get around to sharing this autumn – but for now I want to share a quick and easy weeknight risotto made with pearled spelt, beetroot and feta inspired by my recent trip to Sharpham Park spelt farm in Somerset. (You can read about the two different Somerset cider farms I visited on the same press trip here!)
Spelt is an ingredient I was aware of (I’m a sucker for good packaging so obviously I’d eyed those nice, Union Jack-adorned bags 0f spelt flour in Waitrose – would you expect anything less from the guy who founded Mulberry who is behind Sharpham Park products?) but I’d never really had a chance to experiment with them. As far as making risotto is concerned, its much quicker and easier to work with on a busy weeknight.
So what is spelt exactly? Spelt is a 7,000 year old cross between goat grass and wheat, which is much easier to digest than regular wheat. It’s high in fibre and in slow releasing energy, and it is one of those grains that leaves you feeling much lighter than when you’ve been gorging on wheat. Sharpham Park’s spelt products (they also do spelt bran flakes and breakfast flakes for your porridge / granola if that is your sort of thing, and they’re about to launch a rather delicious spelt pasta) are 100% organic, but for me the most important thing is that they taste better – much more complex, nuttier, and rather toothsome – compared to wheat alternatives.
As well as the spelt products, there are a few more organic crops coming into development at Sharpham Park. They’ve re-introduced deer into the historic park, and they produce the only organic walnut crop in Britain. The first version of this risotto I made I topped – along with some salty, crumbly feta and verdant flat leaf parsley – with some roughly chopped and toasted walnuts from the estate, and while it was delicious, I preferred this second version, which is a lot brighter and cleaner I think, but keep the option in mind.
As far as other recipe choices I’ve made here, when I first set out to make a beetroot risotto I found most of them involved roasting raw beetroot, then adding it to the risotto later. However, I was keen to make this a one-pan wonder, and I found that you get a much simpler, much earthier risotto but gently frying off some grated risotto after the shallots, and just before adding the spelt. However, do make sure that you wear disposable gloves when you do this, because grating raw beetroot on a box grater will stain your hands bright pink!
This delicious, earthy one pan beetroot, feta and spelt risotto is quick and light to make, and much better for you (and easier to make!) than a traditional rice risotto.
2 Banana Shallots
1 Small Raw Beetroot
Large Knob Unsalted Butter
120g (4 oz) Pearled Spelt
130ml (1/2 cup) Dry White Wine
500ml (2 cups) Hot Vegetable Stock
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
60g (2 oz) Feta, crumbled
Small Handful Flat Leaf Parsley, finely chopped
Peel and finely chop the shallots. Wearing plastic cloves, peel and grate the beetroot on the largest hole of your box grater.
Heat a large knob of butter and a generous pinch of sea salt in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Allow to gently fry for about 5-6 minutes until just soft, and add the grated beetroot. Fry for a further 10 minutes or so until the beetroot is just tender.
Add the pearled spelt, and cook for a minute or so until the spelt is heated through. Add the wine, and let it bubble away, stirring occasionally.
Gradually add the stock, a ladle at a time, stirring occasionally until all the liquid is absorbed, the spelt is just tender, and you’ve got a nice, not too wet, not too thick, risotto-like constancy. Depending on the heat of your hob, and the size and the thickness of the pan, you may not need to use all the stock, and you might also need to add a splash more water.
Season to taste with salt and pepper before transferring into two bowls, crumbling over the feta and sprinkling over the parsley.
I'm a food writer living in London and the English Countryside. Welcome to my online diary where I share easy, weeknight recipes, foodie travel diaries and some of the best places I've eaten out recently.
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