Spiced Pearl Spelt, Goat’s Cheese & Walnut Salad

Ulrika designed this dish last winter – it is a great twist on the classic risotto and the spelt is a healthy alternative to risotto/arborio rice. (Ulrika is married to a Sardinian hence the twist on risotto!) If you’re not familiar with spelt don’t be discouraged.  It’s a much underused grain that has a lovely bite and absorbs flavours really well. If you can’t find pearled spelt, substitute it for pearled barley.

Summary

Serves: 4
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes
Dietary Info: Wheat Free, Vegetarian

Preheat oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon groundnut oil
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cubed
  • 1 teaspoon groundnut oil
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • A pinch of saffron
  • 160g pearled spelt
  • 350ml hot vegetable stock (home-made is better otherwise made from a stock cube with boiling water will do)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
  • 40g walnut halves
  • 400g cooked beetroot
  • 2 tablespoons sundried tomatoes in oil, drained
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • A pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 120g baby spinach leaves, washed

To serve:

  • 120g ragstone goats cheese, crumbled

Preparation

  • Mix the groundnut oil, cayenne pepper, cumin, and oregano together in a large mixing bowl. Add the butternut squash cubes and toss to coat in the spice paste.  Use your fingers to rub the spices into the squash.
  • Spread the squash out in a single layer in a non-stick oven proof dish.  Roast in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes until soft. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  • While the butternut is cooking, heat the oil in a large heavy based pan.  Add the onion and cook over a low heat for 3-4 minutes until soft but not coloured.
  • Add the turmeric, saffron and the spelt and stir making sure you coat the spelt in the spices and oil.
  • Pour in a quarter of the hot stock and simmer over a medium heat, stirring until the spelt has absorbed the stock.  Add the same amount of stock again and continue to simmer and stir (the spelt will start to become plump and tender).  Continue adding the stock slowly, stirring constantly until all the liquid has been absorbed (it should take about 20 minutes). If the spelt is under cooked and you have run out of stock, add a splash of boiling water to the pan.
  • Remove from the heat, stir in the basil.
  • While the spelt is cooking, roughly chop half of the walnuts, leaving the remainder whole. Cut the beetroot into bite size pieces
  • Add the chopped walnuts to your cooked spelt.
  • Place the sundried tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, water and chilli flakes in the bowl of a food processor or blender and blitz to a smooth dressing.
  • If you want the dressing slightly runnier, add a bit more water until the consistency is right for you.
  • Tip the spinach leaves and beetroot into a large bowl.  Pour over the dressing and toss together.
  • Arrange the dressed spinach & beetroot around the edge of a salad bowl/platter.  Spoon the warm spelt into the middle of the platter and top with the butternut.  Crumble the goats cheese over the top (the heat of the spelt will slowly melt the goats cheese). Scatter with the remaining whole walnut pieces.

To serve

  • Turn the omelette out onto a chopping board and cut into 4 or 8 wedges. Serve on warmed serving plates with the roasted tomato halves.

Jennifer’s Tip

You can use any goats cheese for this recipe – choose your favourite.  Be patient with the spelt.  The art of any good risotto is the slow cooking time and constant stirring.  Don’t be tempted to add all the stock at once as the effort of stirring over a low heat is rewarded with a delicious creamy texture.

This recipe is from Jennifer’s book, The Diet for Food Lovers available on Amazon (The Orion Publishing Group)
Jean Cazals Photography