You cannot say that we aren’t good to you, here are two recipes on one plate! It also has to be said that we are quite good to ourselves, this is our Thursday night treat dinner (or ‘tea’ as Jane calls it). A farrotto with the lovely nuttiness of spelt and gorgeously sweet glazed figs topped off with some citrus tofu feta.
Every Thursday, I’m normally off work and Jane gets back early, we head off to the big smoke (Bangor – which is a small town with a big Cathedral) and we pick up our veg box from a wonderful little farm in Bethel and then head to a cafe and maybe pick up some fruit. Today these beautifully plump figs caught my eye, I haven’t had the pleasure of figs for an age and love them with a little balsamic glaze.
Farrotto is an Italian dish made with ‘faro’ which can be translated as spelt. Whenever I cook with spelt, it seems timeless. An ancient grain that has been used for centuries in these parts. We normally keep spelt for sprouting purposes and love the chew of the stuff in a salad, it’s always a hearty customer.
This farrotto is simply cooked like a risotto, only for longer. We used some local chestnut mushrooms, fresh garden herbs and giant organic spinach for a classic Italian combo. We also had a little secret ingredient in our umami powder, a mixture of fine sea salt, seaweed and powdered shiitake mushrooms. Add to that bags of garlic and a small pile of onion and we are talking Italy on a plate using Welsh produce. Definitely how we like to do it in the BHK, world food, local bits.
FETA TOFU, TOFU FETA, ARE YOU MAD?
As a a vegan, you must eat tofu. It’s one of the vegan commandments. If you don’t go tofu, you’re sent to work in Mcdonalds by the vegan police. It’s not pretty. Eat tofu!
Tofu feta is a vegan staple and nothing like proper feta but is damn fine and tasty non-the-less. It is a little tiresome with so much vegan food sharing names with the original cheese/ meat produce. Its something we’ll all have to live with, but when trying vegan sausages/ burgers/ cheese etc please do not expect something remotely similar. Approach with an open mind and preferably an open mouth!
As you’d expect from a tofu dish, this is full of powerful plant protein and is superbly lean (no fat in fact). Always opt for whole bean tofu and you cannot go wrong, tofu is amazingly versatile and we even use it in desserts, check it out - strawberry tofu ice cream cake).
Firm tofu will crumble like a nice feta and if you pop this recipe in a blender you have what could be called tofu ricotta. We don’t make the names, just the tasty food.
AUTUMN HARVEST TIME
It is that time of the year when the slight chill of winter is in the morning air and the trees and bushes are ladened with fruits and berries. We had a surprise apple tree spring up a few weeks ago. We thought it was just a little bush and wham! Big green apples all over the place. Result!
We will soon be harvest our potatoes and beetroots, blackberries are everywhere (which is great for walks, no need for a packed lunch!), we will be making rowan syrup soon and bramble jelly. We are also trying to eat as much rainbow chard as possible, it’s irrepressible, which is wonderful news. We are really thankful for a great summer weather wise and the bounty of autumn is a fine time of year to be a cook, I’ve never roasted so many tomatoes. It’s the time of year when spare jam jars become a rare commodity.
We love the British seasons but will be cheating again this year and heading to Spain for a large part of it, we then have plans to go further afield. Eastward. Hoorah! I plan on making a pit stop in the Southern Med for a couple of weeks of eating my way around various countries (Jane is heading to Delhi), then waddling around some fascinating historical sights. I promise to come back inspired with notebooks full of new recipes to try out and a belly full of hummus.
Serves 2 hungry sorts
2 cups spelt grain, 3 cloves garlic (minced), 1 small onion (chopped finely), 4 cups large spinach leaves and stems (sliced), 1 cup dried chestnut mushrooms (soaked) or 2 cups fresh, 1 teas umami powder or salt, 1 teas cracked black pepper, 5 large leaves fresh sage (chopped finely, 1 teas dried), 2 teas fresh rosemary (chopped, 1/2 teas dried), 1 teas fresh oregano (good pinch dried), 1 cup mushroom soaking liquor, 4 cups good veg stock (kept warm – jug with a plate on top will do, or a covered pan on low temp), 2 tbs good olive oil
2 plump figs (halved from stem down), 1 tbs balsamic vinegar, 1 teas honey, scant pinch of salt and pepper
1/2 pack firm tofu (150g crumbled with fingers), juice of 1/2 lemon, 1 teas sea salt, 1-2 cloves garlic minced (depending on how much you love garlic), a few basil leaves (optional – left whole in the feta when marinading)
A couple of handfuls of sharp salad leaves, rocket is perfect.
In a medium sized saucepan, warm on medium heat 1 tbs olive oil, add your onions and saute for 4-5 minutes. When softened, add garlic and faro to toast a little, saute for 3 minutes further, then add your umami (salt), pepper and mushrooms followed quickly by the liquor all this whilst stirring well! Intense. You’ll get a nice hiss now, add your herbs and continue to stir well. It’s all in the stir this dish.
When the liquor has reduced down, ladle in some warm stock, one ladle at a time as the farrotto becomes thicker and reducing, intensifying the flavours. Wow, what a thing! Keep stirring gently. Cook on a steady heat for around 40 minutes in total, the faro should still have a little bite to it and the consistency of a loose porridge. Finish with 1 tbs olive oil stirred in just before serving.
The tofu is best made the night before serving to marinade nicely. Crumble the tofu in a bowl, add the rest of the ingredients and mix well with a spoon. Serve at room temperature, like most things, straight out of the fridge is just not cool. It’s a flavour killer.
In a small frying pan, get it hot, add you balsamic and honey then your figs straight after, there will be smoke here. Exciting. Move the figs around the pan to get well coated in the glaze, cook for two minutes on high heat then remove from pan. The figs should have a lovely shiny charred look to them.
On one half of a dinner plate, pop a handful of leaves sprinkled with some tofu feta (add walnuts or other nuts here for a super special twist) a couple of fig halves, few twists of black pepper.
On the other half (remember this is two meals in one here!) spoon your lovely thick and gooey farrotto, a sprinkle of herbs and drizzle the whole plate with some fine olive oil.
We Love It!
Like eating in our favourite Italian restaurant in the Beach House. Who needs to go out for dinner when the food is this good in the casa and you get your starter and main course on the same plate. Unconventional, but we like it. Great for sharing.
The citrus tofu and sweet figs work well and the farrotto is our new favourite risotto (if you catch our drift),
Spelt is a cousin/ neighbour of wheat, but is lower in gluten making it acceptable to some folk who suffer from wheat allergies. Generally its better for the belly than wheat and makes a wonderfully nutty loaf in flour state.
Spelt is said to originate from Iran and is 7000 years old (how do they know these things). Spelt has always been highly regarded and was offered to pagan gods of agriculture to encourage a fine harvest and fertility.
Spelt has a better range of nutrients than the vast majority of wheats, its full of minerals which our body loves. It is a whole grain meaning it has a good level of dietary fibre, remember that grains are not the only soure of fibre, many fruits are full of it. Take raspberries for example which have a comparatively higher level of fibre than oats and brown rice put together!