Spring Greens and Goats Cheese Spelt Risotto


This week I found myself with a glut of spring greens from the veg box and didn't have a clue what to do with them. Unfortunately I always feel totally uninspired when faced with these young cabbages, my mind goes blank and all I can think of are totally boring side dishes. I'm not sure why I have a particular prejudice towards this humble veg given that if you showed me a bunch of kale, a red cabbage, or pretty much anything else from the brassica family, I would get somewhat over excited.

So I put my thinking cap on and searched the kitchen for anything that would pep up the spring greens. Lemon was an easy choice to start of with as it goes into most dishes in our kitchen and works very well to bring out the flavour of green veg. Then I stumbled across a packet of pearled spelt in the cupboard and knew instantly that I wanted to make a "spelt-otto" or risotto made with spelt instead of rice - in my opinion risotto can make anything sexy, even cabbage. We had the dregs of a bottle of some lovely dry cider in the fridge which added a slightly sweet undertone to the whole dish. Some creamy goats cheese was all I needed to finish it off nicely.

Spelt works really well in risotto's, I find that the grain retains bite and texture easily and avoids any potential difficulty one may have in getting normal rice risotto to the perfect al-dente consistency (I'm sad to say that my short attention span means that I often forget about my poor rice risotto and end up over cooking it slightly... oh dear...) It also cooks in the about the same time as rice which is a definite added bonus as some grains cooked in this way can take hours and who has the patience for that?

If anyone has any other ideas for using humble spring greens I'd love to hear them!


Spring Greens and Goats Cheese "Spelt-otto"
Serves 2-4

1-2 heads of spring greens

2 tsp bouillon powder

2 small onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
250g pearled spelt, rinsed
Small glass of white wine, dry vermouth or dry cider
1 tbsp creme fraiche
grated zest of half a lemon
100g goats cheese, crumbled

Take out the thick stems from the centre of the leaves of the spring greens, and chop into roughly one inch slices. Wash the greens thoroughly. Add the greens to a large pot of boiling salted water, bring back to the boil and blanch the greens for 1 minute. Drain the greens, reserving the cooking water, and refresh the greens in cold water, drain again.

Measure out 600ml of the cooking water from the greens (or top up with boiling water if you need more) and add the bouillon powder. Keep the stock warm on the hob.

Cook the onion over a medium heat in some olive oil, rapeseed oil or butter, with a pinch of salt, until soft but not coloured, about 5-10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two more. Add the spelt and cook for a minute or two to toast the grains. Add the wine/vermouth/cider and simmer until reduced, whilst stirring the spelt. Add a ladleful of the stock and stir gently until this is absorbed. Continue adding the stock one ladleful at a time until the spelt is just cooked but still has some bite, about 15-20 minutes. If you run out of stock just use boiling water from the kettle.

Once the spelt is cooked stir in the blanched greens and reheat them gently. Then stir in the creme fraiche, lemon zest and plenty of black pepper. Serve the risotto with the crumbled goats cheese on top, with some more lemon zest and black pepper if you like.