Sunday 1 May 2011

Smoked Mackerel and Beetroot Speltotto

Smoked Mackerel and Beetroot Speltotto

As regular readers know I am partial to a risotto. But with my loose adoption of the Nordic Diet, which spurns simple carbohydrates, I’ve not been able to enjoy them as freely as I’d like to. Trina Hahnemann instead suggests using whole grain risotto rice, but I’ve struggled to find it in Sweden – and even struggled to lay my hands on any on a recent trip to Florence. So instead, like a heroin addict trying to find a cure, I found solace, not in cough medicine, but in spelt. Sure, it doesn’t give you quite the same smack as a true risotto, but it packs twice as much protein and less sugars, so is better for you, without being too worthy.

In Sweden spelt is called dinkel, which is a name I rather like. Partly because it reminds me of Claudia Winkleman, but also because it just sounds so innocent. I bought a packet of dinkel grains from a brand called Saltå which I can’t recommend highly enough. Now, when I look on my shelves, I see a line of beautifully designed packages, replete with an iconic, lino cut image of an old fashioned mill, stamped onto reassuringly thick brown paper. I’ve got their whole grain spaghetti, their spelt flour, their red rice, their quinoa, their amazing porridge oats and now their spelt. Many of their products are bio-dynamic, most are organic, all are superbly made and none have ever let me down. They’ve managed to make the terribly dull world of goody two-shoes carbs, just a little bit sexy.

Not knowing quite what to do with my spelt I consulted Twitter and was sent in the direction of the Sharpham Park website which suggested using pearled spelt as a risotto rice substitute. I’ve shamelessly stolen the term “speltotto” from the chaps at Sharpham, although maybe Dinkelotto would be more fitting. As ever, my beetroot fetish continues unabated and it always goes well with smoked mackerel, a splodge of goat’s curd and a sprinkling of chives. Previous experience of making beetroot risottos has meant that I’ve given their recipe a sharp tweak to get the maximum beet-impact.


100g Dinkel / Spelt per person
1 smoked mackerel
1 finely chopped shallot
1 glass of white wine
Goat’s curd or goat’s cheese
4 beetroot
1 litre of stock
Olive oil


Peel the beetroot and dice them very finely. Then add them to a pan, cover with the stock and simmer until the beetroot is tender. Reserve the liquid, for this will be your ruby red stock. Sharpham Park suggest grating, but if you do this, I think you miss out on texture and colour.

Fry the shallot until tender. Add the spelt as you would do with risotto rice. Then after it has crackled for a minute add the wine. Let it huff and puff like a thirsty dragon and then add the crimson beetroot stock and reserve the beetroot solids. Continue until the spelt has absorbed the liquid and has softened which could take anywhere from 20 minutes to 50! (You can reduce the cooking time by soaking the spelt overnight). Add the beetroot pieces towards the end.

Then when the spelt is cooked beat in some butter and season with gusto. Integrate the smoked mackerel and goat’s cheese. And finally, sprinkle over some chopped chives.

Smoked Mackerel and Beetroot Speltotto

It’s an earthy, toothsome, beast, so works well with something piercing to offset the deep flavours – a decent glass or two of dry German Riesling would hit the spot. My final piece of advice, aside from not wearing white, is to make a big batch and enjoy it for lunch the next day and also as alarmingly coloured arancini.


Hollow Legs said...

I'm not convinced by speltotto, but damn it looks good.

Unknown said...

Love me some dinkle!

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Looks great, Browners. Love all the flavours in there. And thanks for the reminder - I bought some spelt some time ago to make something along these lines. Time to dig it out!

Helen said...

How the eff do you get your smoked mackerel to always flake so attractively? Mine always looks a right state.

Lovely looking dish though, very pretty colours.

Unknown said...

Can't believe you have managed to work another beetroot recipe on here - I think that is your real smack!

Jonathan said...

@Lizzie - You're right to be cautious. Risottos still win. But it's a good alternative. In some ways it's a more interesting texture as well. But you don't get the same creaminess from the emulsified butter with starch.

@Dom - Dinkel, dinkel little star. How I wonder how what you are.

@aforkfulofspaghetti - Good luck with the speltotto.

@Helen - It might be a superior Swedish type of smoked mackerel. Or maybe I've just got a very gay touch!

@Gourmet Chick - Yep. I really am struggling to kick it. Maybe the summer will help to ween me off it.

Unknown said...

niceness! I think there's lots of opportunity to do this sort of thing with other grains. I had a bash with barley and it was great -

Jonathan said...

@Oliver - Your barley creation looks splendid. Looks like the starches mixed with the buttery fats nicey.

norma said...

It took me ages to get hold of some spelt. In the end, my sis in USA sent me some, but I'm a bit flummoxed, as all the recipes I find on line are for pearled spelt. Mine obviously still has a husk, and is not light-coloured like the photo's on line, which describe the pearled stuff.
I'm never sure how to cook the husky stuff, but I recently added some well soaked spelt to a parsnip and ginger soup, and it was delicious. However, I'm not sure how to go about making a speltotto with it, and am longing to. (P.S. I love beetroot and mackerel too!) Buon apetit!


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