Butternut squash and sage “speltotto”

Spelt has a long history in Britain- it is thought to have been brought over here by the Romans (along with Nettles, and perhaps wasps but we won’t dwell on that), but it has been much overlooked until fairly recently. With production and demand rising in the UK, I thought it was time to look at how versatile this little golden nugget really is.

The Italian orzotti (or barley risotto) is the inspiration for this dish and you could substitute pearled barley if you liked, adding about 5 minutes to the cooking time. The vinegar balances out the sweetness of the squash, but if making yourself you could use a splash of cider or white wine here.

Recipe serves 2 people

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1tbs cider vinegar
  • 6 sage leaves
  • 40g pine nuts
  •  ½ onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 150g pearled spelt
  • 550ml stock (1 cube)
  • 50g hard goats cheese grated
  1. Preheat the oven and your baking sheet to 200°c
  2. Peel and chop the squash into 2cm pieces, (reserving the peel in a pan) and toss the flesh in 1tbs of olive oil and lay on your warmed baking sheet. Season and put in the hot oven.
  3. Meanwhile make up the stock in the pan with your peelings, add two sage leaves and bring to a low simmer
  4. After 10 minutes pull the tray from the oven, tear up 4 of the sage leaves, tucking under the squash pieces  and place back in the oven.
  5. Fry your onion and crushed garlic in a separate pan in some butter or olive oil for a couple of minutes until the onion looks translucent.
  6. Add the spelt grains to and continue to stir for 2-3 minutes to coat in the garlicky butter and warm the grains
  7. Add a ladleful of stock and the vinegar stirring until no more liquid can be seen then add the stock a ladleful at a time stirring often until the stock is absorbed.
  8. Dry fry the pine nuts for a minute or so to give them a little colour – take care not to burn.
  9. The squash should be ready around 15-20 mins after adding sage (it should be soft with a little colour on the edges)
  10. It should take about 25 minutes to cook the spelt, it should have a bit of firmness to it but not be crunchy at all. If you run out of liquid before this you can add a splash more boiling water to the spelt after you have finished adding the stock (but don’t dilute your stock)
  11. Stir in most of the squash and cheese, reserving a little of each to arrange on the top with the pine nuts.