I don’t know what to call this thing I made, which is essentially a risotto made with spelt rather than rice. I know some food writers favour the name ‘speltotto’ (yes, I’m looking at you Mr Fearnley-love-a-pun-Whittingstall), but, as I may have mentioned before, I’m not a big fan of the linguistic portmanteau (current pet hate: mansplaining) and I find this particular lexical shunting a bit naff. Also, I have made this dish more often with pearl barley than spelt, so what would you call it then? Barlotto? Doesn’t really work does it?
Whatever you want to call it, I do urge you to give this dish a try. It has all the comforting qualities of a risotto, but the grain is more forgiving so will not become quite so claggy if you overcook it or want to reheat it the next day (or, in my case, the day after and the day after that, since it was dismissed outright by the rest of my family on account of the kale*). Yes, it’s a bit autumnal, but if the current weather is paying little heed to what season it is (it is, as I write, teeming horizontal sheets of a sleet and hail hybrid. Slail?) why the hell should I?
Squash, goat’s cheese and kale splotto with almond and sage pesto
The pesto gives the dish a zingy lift and is a good foil to the sweetness of the squash, but if you can’t be bothered or if it’s not to your taste (sage can taste a little soapy) then finish the dish with a squeeze of lemon juice and a grating of zest. I always roast the squash seeds because it seems a shame to bin them, but again, if you can’t be fagged, replace them with shop-bought pumpkin seeds or toasted pine nuts.
For the risotto
- 1 medium butternut squash
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- pinch chilli flakes (optional)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 250g pearled spelt or barley, rinsed
- 800ml warm vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 5 sage leaves, chopped
- 125ml white wine
- 2 large handfuls of kale, tough stalks removed, blanched for 1 minute in boiling water
- 50-70g of hard goat’s cheese, grated (I used the St Helen’s brand from Ocado. You can use parmesan but might need to use less as it’s stronger)
- 2 knobs butter
For the pesto
- 10g sage leaves
- 50g hard goat’s cheese or parmesan, finely grated
- Handful of blanched almonds
- Handful of rocket
- Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
- Olive oil1. Heat oven to 200° C (fan). Peel and dice squash into 2cm cubes reserving seeds. Toss diced squash in 2 tbsp olive oil with the fennel seeds, chilli flakes (if using) and salt and pepper and roast in the oven for about 45 mins until soft and caramelised. Wipe seeds clean of any fibres in kitchen towel then toss in a little olive oil and salt and bake on a separate tray in oven for about 10 minutes until golden – you want them crispy rather than fingernaily.
2. Fry onion in 1 tbsp oil and a knob of butter for about 10 mins until soft. Add chopped sage and garlic and cook for a further minute. Add spelt and stir to coat, adding a good pinch of salt at this stage. Slosh in wine (any old rubbish will do) and let it bubble away until it’s all absorbed then cook as you would a normal risotto – you know the drill: add ladle of stock, stir until absorbed before adding the next, then repeat.
3. When the spelt is al dente (after about 20-25 mins, maybe a tad longer if you are using barley) stir in the remaining knob of butter and the goat’s cheese, season with pepper and more salt if necessary, then gently fold in the kale and squash. Add a final ladle of stock to loosen if needed, then put lid on, take off the heat and leave to rest while you make the pesto.
4. Whizz all the pesto ingredients together in a food processor adding enough oil to loosen. Season with salt and pepper and add more lemon if needed. If the pesto is still a little thick, add a splash of water.
5. Serve risotto with a drizzle of pesto, a sprinkling of toasted seeds and a crumbling of goat’s cheese. Eat and enjoy, chill and relax by all means, just don’t chillax.
* addendum: I made this again last night, left out the kale and served it as a side to some roasted pork fillet which worked very well and received a nod of approval from the husband at least, so progress.