SPELT, a relative of modern wheat, is an ancient grain. It is tasty, good value, versatile to cook with and has a lovely mellow, nutty flavour that’s distinctive and delicious in any manner of dishes.
It’s a larger grain than rice so it can often be easier to cook with. It needs a longer cooking time, but the reassuring thing is you do have a longer window to stop it being overcooked.
It takes about 45 minutes to cook, but it’s definitely worth the effort to enjoy these wonderful little pearls of flavour.
Although part of the wheat family, spelt grain has got a higher protein level than wheat. It’s not gluten free, but it can be enjoyed by many people who don’t eat wheat, so it can make a lovely, tasty alternative to other rice or pasta dishes.
Spelt is an ingredient I cook with a lot more now, thanks to my fellow chef Dominic Jack.
He learnt to cook a delicious spelt risotto when he worked at the renowned two Michelin star Taillevent in Paris. There legendary chef Alain Solivérès introduced his innovative épeautre, or spelt, dish and it’s been enjoyed by many diners since, and indeed adopted by many chefs across the world.
When Dominic told Solivérès that he was to open his restaurant Castle Terrace, in Edinburgh, Solivérès made him promise to have a seasonal spelt risotto on his menu, just like those he learnt to cook at Taillevent in Paris.
To this day it’s a dish that diners at Castle Terrace have the pleasure of enjoying throughout the seasons and Dominic still relishes making and creating seasonal Scottish takes on the dish.
As Dominic and I have created menus for The Scran & Scallie together too, we’ve incorporated some new spelt dishes such as a simple but delicious spelt and vegetable salad, and a tasty spelt and lentil burger which we serve with our homemade chips.
Spelt is a touch sweeter, cleaner and nuttier than other grains so it stands up well to earthy vegetables and lentils or pulses.
It’s got an almost silky, yet rigid, grainy texture which can really bring a dish to life, or add that extra boost to soups or stews.
As well as the grain, you can find spelt flour or spelt noodles in lots of local health food shops or delis. Right now is a brilliant time to cook with spelt as the wonderful little grains are so warming and comforting, without being too heavy.
Whether you’re trying a little more challenging risotto, or a simpler salad, it’s worth being patient to get outstanding results.
Makes approximately six burgers
100g puy lentils
400g vegetable stock
100g grated carrot
rosemary and parsley, chopped
Gently boil the lentils, spelt and vegetable stock together until the grains are tender – this should take around 30 minutes. Season with salt to taste and do not drain the liquid away. Mix in grated carrots, oats, rosemary and parsley. The mixture should bind tightly together. If it is too crumbly, add more oats to help it bind.
Shape the mixture into portioned patties – each portion should be roughly 150g. Pan fry them for three to four minutes on each side on a low heat until hot in the centre. Serve with mustard.
Serves one as a main course
100g (cooked weight) spelt
100g white cabbage
2 cauliflower florets
1 sliced mushroom
1 tbsp ginger
1 garlic clove
coriander, small bunch
juice of ½ lemon
½ tsp table salt
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
Slice the cabbage, radish and mushroom and grate the carrot. Break up the cauliflower. Dice (small) the chilli, ginger and garlic. Roughly chop the coriander. Mix all the ingredients including the cooked spelt together with lemon juice, salt and vinegar, adding the diced chilli, ginger and garlic according to taste. Serve.