I love it when I'm approached to try a new foodie product that I never even knew existed and that's what happened recently when I was given the chance to sample some Sharpham Park spelt products. I've never eaten spelt before - in fact, I'd never eaten heard of it ! - so I decided to do a quick bit of research.
Wikipedia explains : "Spelt (Triticum spelta) is a hexaploid species of wheat. Spelt was an important staple in parts of Europe from the Bronze Age to medieval times; it now survives as a relict crop in Central Europe and has found a new market as a health food." Wow, back to medieval food - I'll be roasting dormice and peacocks soon !
Sharpham Park have some more fascinating facts. "Spelt is a delicious, ancient grain brought over from the Middle East about 9000 years ago. It is a cross pollination between Emmer Wheat (triticum dicoccoides) and Goat Grass (aegillps squawosa) and has a distinctive, nutty flavour." My favourite nugget of spelt knowledge is "Spelt is a much more valuable food source than modern day wheat varieties. It has more pounds per square inch of energy than all the rest, keeping you going that extra bit longer. The Romans called spelt their ‘Marching Grain’ because of its high energy content."
OK, so now we know what spelt is, what can we do with it ? Well, those clever people at Sharpham Park have done all the hard work and sorted out the recipes for you. Their Tomato & Chilli Speltotto just needs you to add boiling water then a knob of butter - it's as simple as a Pot Noodle !
When you empty out the dry speltotto, this is what you get. Sophie peered into the saucepan dubiously and said that it looked like bird seed ! (I think in her mind "spelt" was going to have something to do with alphabetti spaghetti though !) I had a sniff of the contents of the box and it reminded me of the smell of dried packet vegetable soup.
After adding hot water and letting it bubble away for a while (about twenty minutes) with a few stirs, this is what you get. The grains remind me of Ebly, which Madhouse Daddy Mike isn't overly keen on, but I asked for his opinion and he said it was much softer and juicier than Ebly. I was slightly taken aback by the chilli heat and had to quickly rustle up a pan of rice for the girls and Pierre, who found the speltotto way too spicy for their delicate palates. For grown-ups, it's perfect though, with a nice warmth that gives it some zing without being so hot it takes the roof of your mouth off ! Sophie did ask if she could try it again but minus the chilli, so she obviously liked the taste. Looking on the website, there are also Courgette & Garlic and Pumpkin & Shallot Speltottos available, so I'd definitely like to give those a go with the rest of the family.
I was pleasantly surprised and amazed that spelt hasn't made more of a comeback, because it makes a delicious alternative to rice and pasta that is incredibly quick and simple to cook.
star rating : 4.5/5
RRP : £3.95 for 225g
for more information : http://www.sharphampark.com/buy-our-products-online/pearled-spelt-and-speltottos
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