Pearled Spelt is a great alternative to Risotto Rice
A low fat Risotto that's packed full of flavour
Pearled Spelt is an easy-to-cook alternative to Risotto Rice. We found that it lent itself well to this type of dish as it became tender, but didn't become too gloopy or sloppy like some rice can. An overly sloppy mix can give some Risottos a texture which can put a lot of people off, because it reminds them of school rice pudding. With a Spelt Risotto there should still be the essence of a bite in a rich but not too liquid sauce.
We urge you not to make this Risotto without the Porcini Mushroom, which is really the star of the show. This particular variety of mushroom adds a complexity of flavour that is not merely mushroomy, but earthy, meaty and thoroughly satisfying. Without it the dish would just be savoury.
Optional extras for this recipe include adding Petit Pois during the latter part of cooking and/or stirring in some Creme Fraiche just prior to serving. You could also stir in some toasted Pine Kernels just before serving. We think that once you give this alternative Risotto a go you might never bother with rice ever again! You could try using Pearled Barley instead in this recipe if you wish, although we haven't tried this ourselves... yet.
1) In two separate bowls, cover the Pearled Spelt with cold water and the dried Porcini Mushrooms in around 100ml of boiling water. Leave both to soak for 20 minutes.
2) Meanwhile finely dice the onion and slice the mushrooms either into half (if button) or into quarters (if medium).
3) Add the olive oil and onions into a deep frying pan, preferably non-stick. Remove the skins from the garlic and grate into the pan. (Or if using ready-made paste, add straight to the pan.) Fry the onions and garlic gently for 2-3 minutes.
4) Then add the Chestnut Mushrooms and gently sautee until the onions start to colour and the mushrooms start to soften (3-5 minutes).
5) Drain the water from the Pearled Spelt and add to the pan along with the white wine.
Simmer and stir until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Turn the heat down while you make the stock.
6) Make the stock: In a heat proof jug, dissolve the two stock cubes in 1 litre of boiling water. Drain the excess liquid from the Porcini Mushrooms straight into the stock and stir.
7) Now gradually stir in the the stock, one cup at a time, allowing the liquid to be nearly all absorbed before adding the next cup. Keep stirring the contents of the pan throughout this process. Continue until all the stock has been used and the Pearled Spelt has become tender. This should only take around 20 minutes, however it took us well over half an hour!
8) Serve on plates with a garnish of Pecorino and Chives. If serving 6 as a starter, try grilling some slices of crusty French Bread with garlic butter or instead a little cheese grated on top.
----- This recipe was adapted from one first published in the BBC Good Food Magazine, November 2009.
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