There is something rather opulent and indulgent about this dish- despite it being incredibly easy and cheap to make- particularly if you get your ‘shrooms from a market. Unlike regular risotto the stock needn’t be added gradually- but simply thrown in and left to its own devices- shortly followed by the other ingredients. Told you it was easy.
Spelt is the most ancient of grains, going back yonder to the Bronze age and beyond. On a satisfying note- spelt is also a healthier alternative to regular rice and stuffed full of nutrients.
Its wonderfully nutty taste means it takes on bold flavours well- like the pungent garlic and aromatic thyme- and is balanced perfectly with the sweetness of butternut squash and chestnuts. Roasting the squash enhances this natural sweetness and draws out a caramel-like flavour to it. If you want to get really fancy, a teaspoon of truffle honey drizzled over the squash for the last 2 minutes in the oven adds a final, delicious flourish.
½ butternut squash
½ small leek
1 clove of garlic
100g wild mushrooms (chestnut, shitake, field mushrooms etc)
a small bunch of thyme
1 pt chicken or vegetable stock
50g cooked chestnuts (these can be bought vacuum-packed from most supermarkets), or use home-roasted chestnuts for a smokey taste
truffle honey (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
- Peel the butternut squash, then cut into small cubes. Scatter into a roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil, then roast in the oven until golden and soft. This should take around 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, finely dice the onion, leek, garlic and slice the mushrooms.
- In a deep-sided frying pan, melt half the butter and a drizzle of olive oil. Turn up the heat slightly, and before the butter begins to sizzle add the mushrooms and sauté for around 4 minutes- until they’re soft and golden on the edges. Set aside on a plate and cover with foil.
- Add another drizzle of olive oil to the pan, and on a low heat soften the onion and leek. After around 5 minutes add the garlic, continue to soften.
- Wash the spelt a couple of times, shake dry in a sieve, and add to the pan. Stir.
- Add the stock, stir and cover. Cook for around 20 minutes until the spelt is tender with a slight bite.
- By this stage the squash should be nicely roasted- add this to the pan, along with the mushrooms and roughly chopped chestnuts- reserve a small amount of the chestnuts and mushrooms to garnish.
- Add the fresh thyme leaves and stir.
- Finally, stir in the remaining butter, and gradually add the parmesan to your taste- and checking it’s not made the risotto too salty. Taste and season carefully.
- Serves garnished with a scattering of the wild mushrooms, chestnuts and a dusting of parmesan.
Goes wonderfully with a pile of iron-rich cavolo nero, gently steamed.