I love cooking and eating, but I’m the first to admit that it’s all still a little bit new to me. However I am very eager to try new things, and love it when something exciting lands on my doorstep. Which is exactly what happened last week when the postman brought me a package of food I’d never even heard of, let alone tried.
Tell me; have you ever eaten spelt?
For those of you who don’t know, spelt is a type of wheat. According to The World’s Healthiest Foods it’s “an ancient grain that traces its heritage back long before many wheat hybrids. Many of its benefits come from the fact that it offers a broader spectrum of nutrients compared to many of its more inbred cousins in the wheat family. It can be used in many of the same ways as wheat including bread and pasta making.”
Spelt is said to have all of the health benefits of other fibre-rich foods; it is claimed it can lower cholesterol levels, prevent gallstones, prevent heart failure, protect against breast cancer and is generally a bit wonderful. But most interestingly, spelt doesn’t seem to cause problems in a lot of people who have a wheat intolerance.
You can use spelt to make flour and pasta, but the people at Sharpham Park hadn’t sent me that. My parcel contained “Finest Pearled Spelt” and a “Garlic & Thyme Speltotto”.
I used the finest pearled spelt in place of rice when I made a chilli. You cook it just like rice — that is, bung it in a pan of boiling water for 10-20 minutes until it’s tender, then drain it and pile it on a plate.
It tastes fine. Keeping the comparison going, it seems to serve a similar function to rice — as in, you put flavoursome things with it rather than rely on it to bring you a taste explosion. The texture is lovely, but hard to describe. The best we could come up with was a cross between pasta and rice. That sounds bizarre, and it is initially, but it’s actually quite lovely.
I was a bit stuck for ideas on how to use the rest of the packet, but the Sharpham’s website has a whole section of recipes that use pearled spelt and I was able to try it a few times. Everything I made was tasty and filling. I wouldn’t use spelt in place of rice every time, but I can certainly see myself pulling the little bit that’s left in the packet from the cupboard and making myself a quick and tasty lunch in a few days. It’s only £2.95 for a 500g bag of pearled spelt, so that’s not bad value either.
But far more interesting to me was the box of speltotto — which is a risotto made from spelt. According to the packet, all I had to do to get a delicious risotto-like meal in under half an hour was pour water on the contents of the box, stir and simmer. I was a bit sceptical. That was essentially a ready meal, and I didn’t think they’d be able to make something as tricky as risotto work in that format.
It only took half an hour to prove me wrong.
That right there is a certainly a risotto. Well, a speltotto, but you know what I mean. I’m not going to lie and say it was the tastiest thing I’ve ever eaten, but I’ve eaten a lot worse. For a ready meal it was nothing short of miraculous.
I had the Garlic & Thyme Speltotto, but you can also get Garlic & Chilli and Pumpkin & Shallot flavours. At £3.95 each for two meals/four side dishes they’re certainly not cheap, but if you need convenience food and can’t quite bring yourself to have a Pot Noodle or microwave pizza, they’re worth checking out. I have to admit, I’m impressed.
You can find out more about Sharpham Park Spelt and buy their products on their website. You can find Sharpham Park products in Waitrose stores nationwide.