If you’ve been following Coconut and Berries for a little while, you may remember that in April/May of this year I spent a month working in Geneva. Time for cooking was short and food very expensive, so I mostly prepared simple meals for myself at home. But I did treat myself to a few restaurant meals, one of which was an incredible Spelt Risotto with Vegetables & Hazelnut Cream.
I said way back when I talked about my trip that I wanted to recreate it at home, and I finally did!
Well, in the end I took inspiration from that recipe rather than trying to replicate it exactly, but the result was even better than the original!
I’d been eyeing up the mushrooms on “The Mushroom Table” at my local farmers’ market for the past few weeks, but for some reason or other hadn’t yet progressed to buying any. Probably distracted by the squash, kale and apples and pears aplenty…!
Finally taking away a selection of beautiful mushrooms (I went for Portobello, Chestnut & Oyster but you can use any you like in this recipe), I decided risotto was on the cards. Mushroom risotto is of course a classic, but I wanted to put my own spin on it.
Looking through my blog archives it seems I don’t really “do” traditional risotto. My Lemony Pesto Millet Risotto makes use of an oft-forgotten grain, millet, and is fresh and vibrant-tasting, and my Leek, Sun-dried Tomato & White Bean “Risotto” is actually grain-free! But still totally satisfying.
What I especially loved about that risotto in Geneva was the chewy spelt grains it was made from. I didn’t have any spelt to hand but came up with buckwheat as an alternative as it has a similarly plump, soft but toothsome texture. I’m really surprised that I’ve shared so few buckwheat recipes on the blog, and only one using buckwheat groats, as they’re something I use pretty frequently.
I imagine you’ll have heard of buckwheat by now so I won’t go into too much detail but it’s a pseudo-grain ( like quinoa), wheat and gluten-free despite what its name might suggest, and a complete protein. Definitely one to get acquainted with.
Risottos usually have a creamy element, traditionally in the form of butter, cream, cheese or all three. Nuts are my favourite thing to use to add that same richness to vegan recipes, while still keeping things healthy! The hazelnut cream takes this recipe from good to exceptional!
I make the hazelnut cream just as I do regular nut milk, soaking nuts overnight, blending with water and then straining out the pulp. I simply decreased the nuts to water ratio here to get cream rather than milk. Hazelnuts have a stronger flavour than some nuts too and it’s one which really complements the flavours in this dish.
[N.B. See recipe for a speedier but not quite so special alternative.]
Putting everything together is easy work and we end up with a truly delicious winter-warmer recipe that definitely beats the dish it was based on.
- 1/2 C Hazelnuts, soaked overnight
- 1 C Water
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp oil, divided
- 1 Onion, finely chopped
- 1 Clove of garlic, minced
- 1 tsp Chopped fresh thyme OR 1/2 tsp Dried thyme
- 1 C Buckwheat groats, soaked overnight
- 1 C Vegetable broth
- 250g/8-9oz Chopped mixed mushrooms (I used Portobello, Chestnut & Oyster but use what's available to you)
- Salt & Pepper
- Chopped Fresh Parsley (optional)
- Drain and rinse the hazelnuts then blend in a high-powered blender with 1 C fresh water. Strain through a nut milk bag to get a smooth, white cream. Pour into a small pan and warm gently.
- Heat 1/2 Tbsp oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5-8 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for a further minute. Drain and rinse the buckwheat well then add to the pan, along with the vegetable broth. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes until all of the liquid has been absorbed.
- While the risotto is cooking, heat the remaining 1/2 Tbsp of oil in a large frying pan, add the chopped mushrooms, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-10 minutes, until soft.
- Add half the mushrooms to the risotto pan, along with the hazelnut cream (reserving a little for drizzling over each plate). Stir and heat for a couple of minutes to warm through.
- Check seasoning and serve. Top individual servings with remaining mushrooms, a generous drizzle of hazelnut cream and chopped parsley (if using).
*For a quicker, but not quite so delicious, alternative to the hazelnut cream, simply blend 1/2 C soaked cashews with 1 C water. Cashews don't have thick skins so there is no need to strain.
N.B. I’m going to try and share some nut-FREE recipes on the blog soon too. I personally love nuts and eat them probably every day in some form or another, but I know there are many people who can’t do nuts at all or are looking for lower fat options.
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