Alexandra Dudley’s parsnip vermouth speltotto

Our recipe columnist shares a hearty root-vegetable dish that’s ideal for family gatherings

I love the nuttiness of spelt and it is delicious in a risotto. The addition of parsnip means that you get a good dose of vegetables in this risotto (or speltotto). Feel free to use dried rosemary or thyme if you do not have tarragon but don’t skimp on the bay leaf or sage as their flavour goes a long way. The chicken bone broth I’ve used is slow-cooked for 24 hours and adds a beautiful richness to this dish, while the vegetable ones make for a lighter taste. Both are equally divine.

Parsnip vermouth speltotto with almonds and crispy sage

Serves 4

Ingredients

Olive oil
2 banana shallots (or 3 regular shallots), finely chopped
200g grated raw parsnip (about 2 medium parsnips)
2 tsp dried tarragon
250g pearled spelt
1 wine glass of vermouth (I like Martini bianco)
1 bay leaf
Small bunch of sage
500ml chicken broth (I love Ossa Organic – chicken or vegan)
Sea salt and black pepper
A good handful of grated parmesan (plus extra to serve)
A knob of butter
40g whole almonds (roasted in an oven at 180° for 10 minutes, cooled and roughly chopped)

Method

Heat three tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan and add the chopped shallots. Cook gently for about three minutes until soft and translucent. 

Add the parsnips, dried tarragon and a further two to three tablespoons of olive oil and cook for five for seven minutes, stirring constantly. The parsnips should be soft and have caught a little char from the bottom of the pan in places.

Add the pearled spelt and stir well to coat everything evenly. Pour in the vermouth and increase the heat temporarily, allowing the alcohol to cook off. Add the bay leaf and a few springs of sage.

Reduce the heat and begin to add the broth slowly while stirring continuously for about 25 to 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, to make your crispy sage, take a small saucepan and fill it with about a centimetre worth of oil. You can use inexpensive oil for this; sunflower, rapeseed or a light olive oil work fine. Bring it to a medium/high heat (this should take about three minutes). Test by splashing in a few drops of water; if it sizzles, it is ready.

Tear off as many sage leaves as you like (I use about 20). In groups of three or four, drop the leaves into the hot oil for about 20 seconds. Remove using tongs or two forks and place onto a paper towel-lined plate to drain the excess oil. Sprinkle quickly with flaked sea salt.

The speltotto is ready when it has cooked through but still has a good bite. At this point, switch off the heat, add the parmesan and knob of butter and stir through. Remove the bay leaf and sage sprigs, and season to taste.

To serve, divide your speltotto into bowls. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle over the almonds, a little grated parmesan and a further pinch of flaky sea salt. Garnish with a crispy sage leaf or two.

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