In some unwritten chef rule book there exists the heinous concept that risotto can only be married to butternut squash or mushrooms. It’s not that I dislike either of these, but that I’m just crying out for some more original combination. This spelt risotto combines the deeply smoky flavor of paprika with the freshness of tomatoes, the sweetness of the onions, the astringency of the balsamic and lemon and the creaminess of the vegan cashew cheese.
I use spelt (or farro) instead of rice for numerous reasons: it has a lower GI, has a nuttier, more complex flavor, and has a far more interesting texture. It’s also a hundred times easier to cook well. Obviously, it isn’t strictly ‘risotto’, but the idea is similar. —Culina Sophia
In a large pot, over a medium/high heat, heat the oil. Add in the finely chopped onions and garlic, and cook until the onions are soft and translucent.
Stir in the sun dried tomato paste, sugar, balsamic vinegar, thyme, chilli flakes, lemon zest, smoked paprika and a pinch of salt. Cook ingredients together for a couple of minutes.
In a bowl, dissolve the stock in the boiling water, then pour roughly 250ml of this, together with the passata and spelt into the pot, and stir together on a medium heat.
Stir every now then to prevent the spelt from sticking, and add the rest of the water, a ladleful at a time, at roughly 10 minute intervals.
After 40-50 minutes, remove from the heat, stir in toasted pine nuts and lemon juice and season according to taste. The spelt grains should be soft all the way through with no chalkiness, and with some texture remaining. Most of the water should have been absorbed or evaporated so the consistency is thicker than that of a soup, without being solid, and not thin enough to pour.
To serve, crumble the cashew cheese over the top and scatter with coriander.