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You could make this lovely springtime dish with risotto rice, but I love the texture and flavour of Pealed spelt, one of our oldest cultivated grains, dating back to 5000bc! And, being a whole food, it’s really good for us. I’m using leeks, chard and asparagus in this ‘speltotto’ but it’s a very customisable recipe. You could add broad beans in stead of asparagus, spinach instead of chard and any manner of herbs.
Serves 3 - 4
200g pearled spelt or pearl barley
2 medium leeks, trimmed, rinsed, halved and sliced
1 bunch of fresh chard
8 – 12 asparagus spears cut into 2 – 3 cm pieces tips left whole.
A few handfuls of all, or one, of the following fresh herbs – Parsley, chives, fennel tops and lovage chopped
A handful of broad bean tops (only if available)
50g of butter
100g of aged cheddar or good Parmesan grated
2 Tbls of Ev Olive oil
750ml -1 litre hot vegetable stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Set a large heavy based saucepan over a medium high heat. Add a third of the butter and 1 Tbls of olive oil. When the butter is bubbling away, add the sliced leeks and cook, stirring regularly, for 5 – 6 minutes. Don’t let them colour. While that’s happening, strip the leaves from the chard stalks and give them a rinse. Slice the chard stalks into 1 cm pieces and them to the leeks. Roughly shred the leaves and set them aside. Sweat the chard stalks for a minute or two then add the rinsed pearled spelt to the pan and give everything a good stir. Begin to add the hot stock a couple of ladles at a time, stirring regularly as you go. When you’ve used up half the stock, add the asparagus pieces (except the tips) and the chopped chard. Stir this in and add more stock. Continue to cook the spelt and vegetables for a further 5 minutes or so.
Stir in the grated cheese and remaining butter, along with the chopped herbs and asparagus spear tips. If you have some broad bean tops you can pinch out and add, do it now. Alternatively, you could add some pea tops, which you can buy from the markets instead. Taste the dish; adjust the consistency with a splash more stock (It should be loose) and season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the Speltotto into bowls, trickle with the remaining olive oil and bring to the table.