Thursday, February 20, 2014

Spinach and Bacon Spelt Risotto

Oddly wasn't going to post this though I really seriously enjoyed eating it. But I sent the recipe in to the Guardian Cook competition and it came up trumps so thought I would share it here too. It is a result of not baing able to get pinhead oatmeal and not finding the barley in the cupboard that  I was convinced was lurking there. Did find a half pack of Italian spelt - no idea why I bought it - and came up with this simple dish that is deeply comforting in this bleak late winter. The spelt is lovely and nutty and retains a great texture like the opposite of the creamy delight you get with rice.

Pearled Spelt with Spinach and Bacon

Serves 2 for dinner with some for lunch next day

250g fresh spinach, rinsed and destalked
100g lightly smoked bacon, cut into 1cm strips
650ml fresh chicken or vegetable stock
1 tbsp olive oil
75g unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 celery stalk, very thinly sliced (if there are leaves, chop and add at the end)
200g pearled spelt
100ml white wine
75g parmesan, finely grated
50g toasted walnuts, lightly crushed (optional)

Warm a large pan over a high heat and add the damp spinach. Cover, turn the heat right down and cook for a few minutes till the spinach is wilted. Drain in a colander, pressing out as much water as possible, then roughly chop.

Return the pan to the hob over a low heat and cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until the fat renders. When it reaches your desired texture, remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

Put the stock in a small pan, bring to the boil and reduce the heat to low. Return the large pan to the heat and add the olive oil and 25g butter. When the butter has melted, add the garlic, onion and celery and cook gently for about 10 minutes until it's soft and smells inviting.

Add the spelt and stir to coat everything in oil, increase the heat and tip in the white wine. Stir until it is all absorbed then reduce the heat to medium and add the hot stock, a ladleful at a time, until it's all used up – this takes about 20 minutes. The spelt will have swelled and softened and there should be a little liquid in the bottom of the pan. Add a little more hot water if the spelt is not fully cooked.

Stir through the chopped spinach and bacon, season well, then stir in the remaining 50g butter and parmesan.

Turn off the heat, cover and leave to rest for a few minutes then, if using, stir through the chopped celery leaves before serving in big bowls. Top with crushed walnuts if using.

I loved the bacon in it but I was using it because it was in the freezer, same for the chicken stock - this would make a very good meat free supper without bacon and using a veg stock instead.

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