Spelt and pumpkin risotto
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Spelt and pumpkin risotto

The tomato sauce passata is made for the year, a variety of tomatoes procured already sun-dried from Puglia, Calabria and Sicily, some in oil with garlic and herbs, others halved and dried ready to be reconstituted in boiling water, and chillies in the pantry that are sun-dried then

Thu 13 Sep 2012 12:00 AM

The tomato sauce passata is made for the year, a variety of tomatoes procured
already sun-dried from Puglia, Calabria and Sicily, some in oil with garlic and
herbs, others halved and dried ready to be reconstituted in boiling water, and
chillies in the pantry that are sun-dried then fried in olive oil to be eaten as
a snack. The garlic has been braided, some even cold-smoked, the olives are
soon to be ready for picking for the spremitura
di olio nuovo. It is the end of a glorious summer, with a full pantry for
the months to come.




Indeed, as the nights are getting a little
cooler and dusk is falling earlier, I find myself looking forward to some
comfort-food dinners. Not the hearty feasts of winter-stews such as peposo, or pappardelle al cingiale-but simple, vibrant grains and autumn
harvest produce.


So to the market I go. The colours in the food
markets are changing, signalling that the beginning of autumn is upon us. The
mounds of barbabietole rosse (beetroot), the leeks, the pumpkins, cauliflower, the untouchable trays of
porcini mushrooms-all so different from the colours and textures of summer
produce and abundance of stone fruit.


The Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio is still my
favourite market for shopping, being entertained and learning from the
producers and the suppliers. The tall man who sells plants gives me advice
about when in the lunar cycle to plant my tomatoes, how to pick them and which
seeds to save for the following year’s plantings. The lady who always wears a
small backpack sells at her little stall what she has produced herself: a
handful of cabbages, a few bunches of bietola (chard), some fresh herbs, and not much else. Across from her is sometimes an
older man who sells fresh eggs and honey. He is also a truffle hunter. He won’t
tell me where he hunts, of course: he has his secrets and a dog with a sharp
nose for truffles. Then there is the man from whom I get my porcini and ovoli mushrooms as well as much of my
seasonal produce. This is Maurizio, usually with a cigarette dangling from the
corner of his mouth and his standard affirmative reply for most of my
questions: porca miseria (pigs’
misery). It means a good thing, apparently-at least the way he says it! And
inside the market there is Umberto, who sells every fresh cheese as if his
sister made it herself, and who gives you tastes of his salty Tuscan
prosciutto, cheeses and salami piccanti.


I love the taste and rich autumn colour of
pumpkin and the nutty texture of farro,
so it is time to make a risotto. I make this dish as a piatto unico and finish it with a local pecorino cheese. Buon



Risotto di farro e zucca gialla (Spelt and pumpkin risotto)



350g farro
perlato (spelt)

Extra virgin olive oil

½ leek

2 white onions

3 cloves garlic

Sprig parsley

6 peppercorns

One fresh foglia
di alloro (bay leaf)

1 small carrot

300g zucca
gialla (orange pumpkin; we say ‘orange,’ they say ‘yellow,’ but it is the
same thing)

Salt, pepper quanto
basta (as much salt, pepper as required)

30g butter

60g pecorino
stagionato (aged pecorino)


Soak the farro
perlato in tepid water for around half an hour. While the farro is soaking, prepare a vegetable

Take one of the onions, the half leek, trimmed
and washed, and the carrot, peeled and topped. Slice these three vegetables
into a rough dice, not too large as the stock will take the flavour from the
vegetables for 20 minutes only. Place one litre of cold water in a pot on top
of the cut vegetables, add a sprig of parsley with the stalks on, 6 peppercorns
and a fresh bay leaf;  bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer. Skim
the stock as scum rises, simmer for 20 minutes then strain, keeping the liquid
stock and discarding the vegetables. Taste at this stage and add salt to


Now begin the risotto: Peel, core and finely
dice the remaining onion. In a heavy-based pan sauté the onion in extra-virgin
olive oil until translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Crush the garlic cloves with
their skins still on, aglio in camicia and add them to the pan.


Drain the farro well and add to the onions and garlic, stirring for 5 minutes. Meanwhile peel
and grate the pumpkin and add to the pan, now begin to add the vegetable stock,
about a cup at a time. With each addition of stock, let the dish soak up the
liquid before adding more. This should take about 20 minutes, and the farro should still be a little firm to
the bite and nutty.


Leave the mix a little wet, remove from the heat
and pick out the garlic cloves then mantecare:
beat in with a wooden spoon the 30g soft butter and 60g of grated pecorino
cheese. Check seasoning and add some freshly ground black pepper and a little
more salt, if needed.



Wine match

I really enjoy the Bramito del Cervo 2010 from
Castello della Sala, from just across the border in Umbria. It is a soft,
fruity, fine chardonnay with a long finish and just a hint of barrel. It stands
up well to the bit of sharpness the aged pecorino gives to this humble yet
tasty dish.



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