I really enjoy spending hours in the kitchen on weekends, when cooking is such a relaxing and actually grounding activity for me, taking me out of my head into my hands. During the week, though, it must all be a little less time-intensive. Therefore, I have my standard repertoire of recipes that are actually no recipes, but rough outlines that I change and adapt according to what I feel like eating and what’s currently in my fridge or must be used up before going bad. So most of the times, I end up eating a new version of the last one, which was already a version of the one before and so on. 🙂 Like this I certainly don’t get bored with my go-to meals, even though the basic idea stays the same.
This spelt salad is one of those non-recipes that I keep on eating in different variations. (This makes it kind of difficult to write down a recipe for it.) The idea is that you take it as a guideline and play around with it yourself, tweaking it to your likes. The spinach and hazelnut pesto can easily be turned into a rocket and walnut pesto, for example, and the options of griddled vegetables to add to the salad are endless. So when asparagus season finishes soon, go for leeks, courgettes or aubergines instead. If you’d like to add some cheese, feta or ricotta (salata) would be a nice addition to the salad.
Note: The spelt grains take the longest time to cook, so prepare them on Sunday evening and use them in all kinds of different meals during the week, such as in salads or as a replacement for rice as a side for a curry.
Spelt Salad with Griddled Vegetables and Spinach & Hazelnut Pesto
For the spinach and hazelnut pesto:
3 handful baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
1 small garlic clove, peeled
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
juice of ½ lemon, freshly squeezed
30g hazelnuts, slightly roasted would be best, shelled
3 tablespoons grated parmesan
2 tablespoons water
pinch of salt
250g spelt, rinsed
1 fennel bulb, stalks removed and cut lengthways into 2cm thick strips
6 stalks of green asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into 3cm long pieces
4 stalks of celery, leaves removed and cut into 2cm long pieces
4 spring onions, ends trimmed and cut into 3cm long pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons light olive oil
coarse sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
extra-virgin olive oil to drizzle (optional)
Place the spelt with double the quantity of cold water in a medium-large pot and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and let simmer for about 50-60 minutes, until the grains are tender but still with a bite. They should have a bit of a chewy texture. Drain in a colander and set aside to cool a little.
For the pesto, place all ingredients except for the salt in a standing mixer and blitz for 1-2 minutes, until you have a smooth, homogenous sauce. Season with salt. Add a little more water or olive oil to thin down the pesto if needed. This will likely make more pesto than needed for the salad; keep the rest in a glass jar in the fridge for 2-3 days.
Toss the vegetables in a big mixing bowl with a bit of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Heat a heavy griddle pan (or thick-bottomed frying pan, alternatively) over medium-high to high heat. Griddle the vegetables for about 4-5 minutes until they start to brown.
To assemble the salad, place spelt grains, vegetables and half of the pesto in a big mixing bowl and toss carefully. Add more pesto if you like.