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Spelt Beetroot Risotto & Walnut Pesto With St. Tola Goat’s Cheese

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OK, where do we start with this recipe?! This is a spelt and beetroot risotto which has all the comforts and appeal of a traditional risotto, but is healthier, and a lovely modern twist on a classic recipe. We use spelt, which is also known as wheat grain, instead of the traditional arborio, or carnaroli rice.

Spelt is an ancient grain widely recognised for its many health benefits. It is a hardy and more nutritious cousin to modern wheat. To speed things up when making this dish, we cook the spelt in boiling water first for around 35 minutes. This process can be done in advance to ease the preparatory time of this dish

Beetroot which is available at this time of the year will be relatively small in size, tender and have a more intense flavour than older beetroot available later in the year. Younger, smaller beetroot has really great versatility and can be roasted and served whole, sliced raw and put in a salad, pickled or you can even use the leaves too. It’s a vegetable that grows really well in Ireland and you can get a range of varieties: red or ruby, golden and candied.

The rich earthiness of the beetroot in this dish is complimented by the texture and flavour from the spelt, which has the slightest bite to it. Some goat’s cheese, such as St. Tola from Co. Clare, crumbled over the top adds some gutsy flavour.

Spelt Beetroot Risotto & Walnut Pesto With St. Tola Goat’s Cheese

Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main

Roasting your own beetroot brings out the natural sweetness. If time does not permit, vac packed beetroot is readily available in the supermarket.

Walnut pesto
20g walnuts, toasted
20g grated parmesan
20ml extra virgin olive oil

For the risotto
450g fresh beetroot to yield 300g cooked beetroot
15ml extra virgin olive oil
150g spelt
1 large shallot, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely diced
1 tablespoon olive oil, for cooking
About 200ml vegetable stock, chicken stock or water
30g mascarpone

Salt & Pepper
6 basil leaves
100g St. Tola goat’s cheese or other soft goat’s cheese

Oven temp for cooking the beetroot: 200C, 400F, Gas 6

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To make the walnut pesto, chop the walnuts roughly, place in a bowl and mix with the parmesan and olive oil.

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Wash the beetroot, leaving the skins on. Wrap the beetroot individually in tin foil and cook in a preheated oven until tender when pierced with a knife – this will take about 40-50 minutes, but may take longer if the beetroot are large. Peel when cooled – you will need 300g cooked weight for this recipe so any extra may be reserved for a salad or another use. Chop the beetroot roughly into 2cm pieces. Blend about half the beetroot until smooth with 15ml olive oil and a little stock or water. Season. Set aside until ready to use.

Cook the spelt grain in boiling water for about 35 minutes or until tender but still with a bite.

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Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium saucepan and add the chopped shallots and garlic. Season with salt. Cook for a couple of minutes until the shallots have softened. Add the cooked spelt grain, the diced beetroot and remaining stock. Simmer until most of the stock has evaporated, add in the reserved beetroot puree and cook until heated through. Add the marscapone and mix in. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

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Slice the basil into strips. Spoon the risotto onto serving plates. Crumble over some goats cheese, scatter over the basil and finish by spooning over some walnut pesto. Serve immediately.

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