Wednesday, 14 October 2009
Mushroom and Chestnut Spelt Risotto
There can be few more perfect places to drink coffee and do some writing than at Rosie’s Deli Café in Brixton. I found myself tapping away on my keyboard, nursing smooth espressos and nibbling on moist brownies last Monday and realized it was my turn to cook.
Before I knew it my hands had picked up a packed of spelt, some dried ceps and a can of chestnuts and my brain had fixated itself upon making a risotto! I asked Rosie if I’d gone mad and she thought it might actually taste quite good…
I find myself making a lot of risottos. It might be because I’ve got a fantastic risotto book that has taught me the intricate details of what makes a good one. But it’s more likely the fact that the process of making one is the most cathartic thing you can do without a yoga mat.
I fried a large onion in a Hurcelean amount of butter, let down with olive oil until it was soft and then chucked in 3 cloves of chopped garlic. Then I poured in 250 grams of spelt and let it crackle in the hot oil. The nutty smell of the frying spelt was quite different to the aroma that wafts off Arborio rice. Then comes the fun bit as you slosh in a glass or two of wine and listen to the liquid vaporize and breath in the winey fumes. It’s the sort of sensory experience that makes me love cooking.
Then start to add your chicken stock enriched with the juice from the rehydrated mushrooms and a splash of mushroom essence. You’ll need a lot of stock because spelt takes a lot longer to cook than rice. Add the stock glug at a time from a large measuring jug until the spelt is softened and the no longer tense. This took the best part of an hour.
Then, as the spelt is absorbing the last lashings of stock, fry about 12 sliced mushrooms in very hot butter and olive oil and flambé in cognac. This will add a rich, warming depth that this super savoury dish others lacks. Do the same with around 10 chopped chestnuts and the rehydrated ceps before adding both to the spelt along with sage and thyme. The sage works brilliantly with the chestnuts.
Stir in butter, parmesan and roughly chopped spinach and allow to rest. You’ll see the risotto transform from brown ricey stuff to creamy, unctuous food porn before your eyes. To serve, ladle into a bowl and adorn with chopped parsley, more parmesan and plenty of pepper.
Although we had it on it’s own, it would be a great accompaniment to pheasant, pigeon or guinea fowl and reminded me of something I once ate at the Ubiquitous Chip in Glasgow. Be warned however, that rumours of spelt being flatulence free are, in my experience, are nothing but hot air.