I love wheat….and I love Italians. I am fascinated by the way Italians eat and the way they cook – it is the simplicity and the flavours, their history and the la famiglia. I grew up with wheat on our table and have always loved the earthy crunchiness of wheat, its healthy and nutritious in so many forms, its cheap and then of course it is also grown just around the corner from us in Malmesbury. What got me thinking about Italians and wheat was a fabulous foodie get-together with #chicksthatchow (see below)* at the Italian restaurant, Zibaldone. It was a spectacular feast of Italian cuisine and the kind of atmosphere that makes a South African like me feel part of the greater La Famiglia…
What stole my heart and took my gastronomic spirit on a wheat journey was the lamb tortellini with creamed pearl barley. Out of my endless curiosity when it comes to food, I had to explore wheat as a risotto ingredient. I went back to Jamie’s basic risotto recipe that I use every time I make risotto and tweaked it somewhat by replacing the risotto rice with wheat and added some martini and mascarpone cheese. It is so delicious and crunchy. It has such a proud and distinctive nutty undertone of flavour and can be enjoyed as a main meal or accompany any beef or lamb dish.
*About #chicksthatchow: we are a group of “taste, tipple and tweet” women who celebrate life, happiness and all things good over a serving of fabulous food and a glass or two of the best pressed grapes whenever or wherever the mood or the menu may take us. #chicksthatchow was founded by the inspiring and enchanting Errieda du Toit, aka @huiskok and now the presiding President of #chicksthatchow.
- 1 Cup of wheat – pre-cooked for 25 minutes without salt in the water
- 1T Olive oil
- 1 T Butter
- 1 Medium onion – finely chopped
- 1 Celery stick – finely chopped
- 2 Cloves garlic – grated
- 60ml Martini Bianco
- 450 ml Stock of your choice
- 40g Grated parmesan
- 2 Generous tablespoons of mascarpone cheese
- For mushrooms
- 500g Mushrooms – any sort – thinly sliced
- 2T Olive oil
- 2T Butter
- 2T Fresh thyme –leaves picked
- 2 Cloves garlic – grated
- Pinch of chilli powder
- Black pepper
- Big squeeze of lemon juice
- 30g Chopped parsley
- Prepare the mushrooms first: Cook the mushrooms, thyme and garlic in the olive oil and butter in batches in a very hot pan – season each batch with salt and black pepper. Do not let the mushrooms become soggy; they should be a beautiful nutty and brown colour.
- When cooked add the chilli powder, a squeeze of lemon juice and the chopped parsley and then set aside.
- Melt the butter over medium heat in a pot and add the olive oil.
- Add the onion and celery and fry for about 5 minutes till translucent.
- Add the garlic and let it fry for another few minutes then add the cooked wheat. Slowly fry the wheat for a minute or two.
- Add the Martini – and stir till the martini has evapourated.
- Now start adding the stock ladle by ladle – allow each ladle to be absorbed by your ingredients in the pot before you add the next one.
- Continue until all stock has been added to the saucepan. Remember… your wheat needs to stay moist and creamy.
- Now add the mushrooms – give it a good stir.
- Then add the parmesan and mascarpone.
- Taste for seasoning – it is not normally necessary to add salt – but I always give it an extra pinch of black pepper.
- Serve with beautiful fresh Italian bread and a glass of good red wine.