Thursday, 31 March 2011

Adventures in Risotto: Cooking with Pearled Spelt


There's no denying that risotto, with its starchy grains and soft, creamy texture is one of the most comforting foods there is. But have you ever tried making it with spelt? I hadn't, so was pleased to give it a try.
Spelt is often milled into flour, or the grains are used in soups and stews. But they can also be used to make risotto! You can buy normal, regular spelt, which needs a good rinse with water and then can be cooked with vegetables and stock in the same way as arborio rice. Except it cooks quicker and doesn't need as much stirring.

You can also buy Speltotto - a kind of instant spelt risotto that comes in a packet, with courgette, garlic pieces and thyme. Now I'll admit that sometimes constant, idle stirring can be as much of an antidote to a long and stressful day as the risotto itself. But sometimes you wish a creamy risotto could be on the table in 15 minutes. Which is where Speltotto comes in. You just tip the contents into a saucepan with some water, bring to a simmer and stir occaionally. The courgette and garlic pieces puff up, as well as the spelt grains themselves. A final grating of parmesan and you have a risotto - or, rather, a "speltotto" - on the table.

This being my first time making a risotto out of pearled spelt, I was interested to see how it differed from the arborio rice I usually use for my creamy risotto cravings.



Firstly, it is nowhere near as stodgy as risotto rice. You feel full, but not button-poppingly so, as is so often the case with risotto normally, at least for me. The grains taste quite nutty and eating them somehow feels healthy. They are creamy and soft in texture but not heavy. I gingerly served it to my children, just casually calling it 'risotto' but they actually tucked in and spooned more into their bowls. I expected the 'speltotto' to taste salty and processed but it honestly didn't. A quick look at the ingredients confirmed that it was made with reduced salt stock powder - and it's made from organic spelt, which is always good.

Yes, there will be days when pale, starchy arborio rice won't be beaten - when you want maximum carb comfort from those garlicky grains. But for the other times I would be happy to eat more spelt.It's easy to digest, (a good choice for IBS sufferers and those with a wheat intolerance) and has also been linked to cardiovascular health. 

Speltotto is produced at Sharpham Park Farm in Somerset. For more information on Speltotto, or spelt in general click here.