Pearled Spelt Risotto w/ Roasted Carrots & Parsnip, Pea Sprouts, Red Wood Sorrel And Chive Oil


It’s getting colder quickly, here in Copenhagen. Over the past few days the temperature has dropped immensely, surprising me with chilly mornings, and giving me millions of goosebumps during my bike rides. The sun still gives us some warmth throughout the day, but soon the clouds and rain will come, and will the cold take over. Until then, it is those bright and sunny days that make me want to walk or bike around all day, a camera in my hand, capturing the beauty around me.

It is different here. Of course. The light is different, the colours of the sunlight, the air, the clouds, the rain. The streets and houses, the markets. There are so many bright and tempting fruits and vegetables. Purple and yellow cauliflower, inspiring me to make something that both highlights flavour and colour. Purple carrots, wanting to be presented in slices, showing you their beautiful orange inside, with that thick purple circle on the outside. Dozens of different types of sprouts, all adding a different zingy-ness, freshness, or sharpness to dishes. The freshest figs, surprising you with the most beautiful deep red, crispy and juicy ‘seeds’ when you take a bite. Wild and natural nuts, in their shells, and with the leaves still around them, as if someone picked them just a minute ago. I can’t help myself thinking about all the food I want to make, writing down my ideas for hours, neatly planning what to buy on what day to be able to make the best use of these beautiful ingredients.

With the cold outside, there’s nothing more comforting than warm, creamy food for dinner. Something hearty, wholesome, and healthy, yet cheesy and silky. Risotto rice is nothing compared to this pearled spelt. Besides that these grains are a lot healthier for you, they give you this magical bite. They’re soft as rice, but hold their shape better, giving you the best consistency and not the well known, sometimes too mushy heap. The combination with roasted vegetables, fresh and zingy sprouts and wood sorrel and sharp chive oil is irresistible. Not even mentioning the beauty of it.

It takes a long time, a little longer than normal risotto, to prepare, but it’s yet the perfect weekday dinner. Standing at the kitchen counter, with a glass of wine in your hand, stirring constantly, talking to your love/friends/family about the day. Nothing more is to be done, having the vegetables in the oven and the rest of the ingredients in the fridge, but to combine everything at the end, probably within a minute. Sit down, talk more, eat and enjoy, while it’s getting dark outside already.

This risotto can be made ahead. Keep all the ingredients separated, warm up the risotto with some extra milk/water, heat up the vegetables separately, and combine.
Traditional risotto is made with wine. I do so most of the times, but sometimes I like to use apple cider vinegar and lemon juice instead, making it a little more zingy and fresh. Of course you can use wine in this recipe; just leave out the lemon juice and apple cider vinegar.
If you don’t have sprouts and/or wood sorrel around, you can always use cress/ lettuce / other greens you prefer.

Makes 2

200 gr / 1 cup pearled spelt
2-3 small (purple) carrots
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
10 sprigs thyme, only the leaves
3 tbs apple cider vinegar
1 L / 4 cups vegetable stock
50 gr / 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tbs mascarpone cheese
20 gr / 1 1/2 tbs butter
150 gr / 1 cup fresh peas
1 small / 20 cm parsnip
1 lemon, zest & juice
50 gr / a handful / 1 cup pea sprouts
50 gr  / a handful / 1 cup red wood sorrel
50 gr chives, about 1/4 cup chopped
3-6 tbs olive oil, depending on thickness

1. Preheat oven to 200 C.
2. Cut carrots and parsnip on a diagonal, sprinkle with little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast for about 20-30 minutes until tender and slightly crispy.
3. Melt butter in a heavy-based pan over medium heat.
4. Add onion and fry of about 5-10 minutes, until translucent and soft.
5. Add garlic and half of the thyme, stir for a minute.
6. Add pearled spelt and stir well, until covered in the buttery onions and thyme.
7. Add apple cider vinegar and half of the lemon juice. Stir and let evaporate.
8. Add the stock, 1/2 cup at at time. Gently simmer while stirring constantly and adding new stock when the previous liquid has been absorbed. This will take about 30-45 minutes.
9. In the meantime, make the chive oil. Combine chives and olive oil and puree/blend until smooth. Set aside.
10. Once the spelt is just tender, add the fresh peas, lemon zest, mascarpone and parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
11. For plating up, start with the risotto, add the roasted vegetables, the pea sprouts and red wood sorrel. Finish with the chive oil and a curl of parmesan cheese if preferred.

Renee Kemps