I love risotto. I love making it, I love eating it, I love how comforting it is, I love how versatile it is, I love that it's always welcome when I don't know what to cook, I love how it's never exactly the same. Whenever someone asks me what they should cook, I pretend to think about it before saying 'risotto'. I just love it. I really think a few forkfuls of risotto on a bleak, gray winter day can make absolutely everything better.
Alas, this is not a post on risotto.
The other day at work we were testing a recipe with pearled spelt. I've never cooked spelt before, and, intrigued by the idea, I began reading the back of the package. I saw that one way to use it was to treat it like rice and make a risotto. Speltotto. Or something like that. Obviously, I had to try.
Using what I had in the fridge, in an attempt not to let anything go to waste (7.2 million tonnes of food go to waste every year in the UK - pretty terrifying if you ask me), I made a spinach, broad bean and cauliflower speltotto. The result was good, but couldn't quite compete with risotto.* I had some left over, and stored it in the fridge overnight.
The next day, I woke up craving a poached egg. On something bready? Crispy? Fried? And then it hit me. I'd turn the leftover speltotto into 'arancini' or spelt cakes, as you wish, which would be the perfect accompaniment to my little poached egg. And that, people, was the best idea I had all weekend. It was definitely better than deciding to bike home at 1 am in -5°C, along the river. Definitely.
I absolutely loved the crunch on the outside of these little cakes, and the richness of the yolk coating every individual spelt gave this dish the creaminess it was lacking the night before. A total winner. Something so good, I was finally beckoned back here to share it. I urge you to make this next weekend, using whatever veg you have on hand.
*Also - though not entirely - due to the fact that, in an attempt to cut down on cheese and booze this January, I had omitted both the parmesan and the wine, which made it a lot less creamy than a typical risotto. Sadface.
Spinach, broad bean and cauliflower spelt cakes
Makes 6 to 8 spelt cakes, depending on their size
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
200g pearled spelt
about 1 litre of warm vegetable stock
1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into little florets, blanched and refreshed
100g shelled fresh broad beans, blanched then peeled, or double peeled frozen, thawed
100g baby leaf spinach
40g to 50g flour
1 large egg, lightly beaten
100g panko bread crumbs
Oil for frying
Heat the oil in a pan over moderate heat and fry onion until soft. Add the garlic fry for one minute, then add the pearled spelt and stir well. Add a good ladleful of the hot stock and stir continuously. When all the stock has been absorbed, add more stock. Continue adding more stock, a ladleful at a time, until the pearled spelt is cooked but still has some bite (about 18 to 20 minutes). Stir in the cauliflower, broad beans and baby leaf spinach, season with salt and pepper and leave to cool.
To make the spelt cakes, add the flour and egg to the mixture, then form patties, about 1.5cm thick and 7 or 8 cm in diameter. Coat in breadcrumbs.
Heat 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan. Fry spelt cakes, in batches, over moderate heat for about 2 to 3 min on each side, until golden and crisp. Remove onto a plate lined with kitchen towel before placing on a serving plate and topping with a lovely poached egg.