Spelt is an ancient grain that’s best known as a flour for use in baking, but the whole grains are excellent for cooking, too, and sit somewhere between barley and brown rice in terms of texture. It has a nutty, earthy flavour when cooked in plain water, but allowing it to bubble away in ever-reducing mushroom stock takes it to another level; you end up with a dark, richly flavoured grain that works brilliantly with many autumn or winter meats and vegetables.
Combinations that make me salivate while writing include: all game birds, venison, offal dishes like haggis or calves’ liver, halibut, turbot and the Spiced roast carrots, plus a spoonful of labneh or curd. It could be made in advance and reheated with a few extra spoonfuls of water just don’t add the lemon juice or parsley until the last minute.
- Yield: 4 to 6 Servings
- 35–40 g dried wild mushrooms
- 10–15 stems flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons light olive oil
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 300 g spelt grains
- Leaves from 15–20 sprigs thyme
- 70 ml white wine or vermouth (optional)
- ½ lemon juice
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Put the dried mushrooms in a heatproof jug or bowl and pour 1 litre boiling water over the top. Leave to steep for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the remaining ingredients. For the parsley, wash and dry it if your bunch is dusty, then finely chop the stems and pick and roughly chop the leaves, keeping the leaves and stalks separate.
- Heat the oil in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook for 3 minutes, until softened and sweetened, then add the garlic and parsley stems. Cook for 1 minute, then add the spelt and thyme. Stir to coat the grains with oil, then increase the heat and pour in the wine, if using. Allow this to reduce by half before adding the rehydrated mushrooms and their soaking liquid.
- Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 40–45 minutes, or until the spelt grains are tender and the stock has reduced to 4–5 tablespoons. Remove from the heat. Add the lemon juice, a generous grinding of black pepper and the parsley leaves. Stir and serve.