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Spelt Risotto with Sorrel, Asparagus, and Herb Flowers

Ingredients

  • 50 g unsalted butter
  • 2 sprigs lemon thyme, leaves picked
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 fat cloves garlic, minced
  • 150 g pearled spelt, rinsed
  • 150 ml dry apple cider
  • 500 ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • 30 g sorrel, finely shredded
  • A handful of asparagus spears
  • A small handful of rosemary flowers, wild garlic flowers, or chive flowers (or a mix of all three)

Instructions

  1. Melt half the butter over a low heat. Add the thyme and let it sizzle for 30 seconds before adding the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook the onion for around five minutes until softened, then stir in the garlic and pearled spelt and cook for a couple more minutes.

  2. Turn up the heat and stir in the cider. Let it bubble away until all the moisture has been absorbed by the grains. Add the stock, along with another generous pinch of salt. Once the stock has come up to a simmer, turn the heat down again, put the lid on the pan and leave to cook for around 20 minutes, lifting the lid and stirring occasionally until the spelt is cooked through, but still has a little bite to it, and most, but not quite all of the stock has been absorbed. Stir in two thirds of the sorrel, let it wilt, then taste (sorrel leaves vary in intensity, so you may find you don’t need to add all the leaves to get the desired citrus lift), then stir in the rest of the leaves if needed. Beat in the remainder of the butter and season with more salt if needed and some freshly ground black pepper.

  3. While the spelt is simmering, cook the asparagus. Put a griddle pan on a high heat, add a dribble of olive oil, and space the asparagus spears out, single file, along the ridges of the pan. A couple of minutes cooking time on each side will leave the stems al dente and charred with flavoursome golden-black stripes. Season well and keep warm until ready to serve.

  4. To serve, divide the spelt mixture between two wide bowls and top with the asparagus. Scatter over the herb flowers to finish.

Recipe Notes

Some of our favourite additions and seasonal variations:

  • Top with a soft poached egg too (but perhaps omit beating in the extra butter towards the end of cooking as it will be a little too rich along with the egg yolk otherwise).
  • For a special occasion, serve alongside roast or poached chicken breast. The spelt risotto is quite saucy, so it will almost act like an alternative gravy for the meat.
  • In early spring, leave out the garlic cloves and throw in a handful of shredded wild garlic leaves just before the sorrel is added instead.
  • In summer, swap the asparagus for griddled courgette, and use oregano and thyme flowers to garnish.
  • In autumn, swap the asparagus for roasted squash or cabbage, add sage along with the thyme, leave out the herb flowers and garnish with a few rocket leaves instead.
  • In winter, swap the thyme for rosemary and the asparagus for purple sprouting broccoli or roasted cabbage wedges. Leave out the herb flowers until February when the first rosemary blooms will appear.