Happy St.Patrick's - a spelt grain dish with mushrooms that is not Irish at all

It's St. Patrick's day and the drunken Irishman living inside me is roaring with hunger for cider and a loaf of soda bread. Both will be had, to appease this beast that lives inside me and that cries out whenever it hears the sounds of traditional Irish music or the Irish accent being spoken. I can't explain what it is, but I feel a deep connection to Ireland, so I won't even bother going over it again, as I have been doing the same for years. I'll just say that tonight there is going to be a soda bread unlike any other I have ever baked before, and I bake a lot of soda breads, you know? If it turns out alright, I'll be sure to post the recipe.

This week was a weird one, looking back on it. I had a huge bout of PTM - don't ask! - and couldn't much be bothered with anything that tested my patience. To top it all off, because I had been in such an amazing roll of coming up with delicious recipes that translated so well into cooking, I seem to have been hit by precisely the opposite: all I cooked this past week was meh, not really special at all, just average stuff. I mean, Sunday was the last fluke day when I cooked something thatw as really good, but I could tell my luck was about to end there as the recipe I test drove last Sunday almost came out wrong. In a stroke of luck, it didn't and I'll be posting it soon - you'll like it, it's got chocolate!

Also, I managed to finally get done with the third book on my vampires and witches series, which was a bit of a weird thing. I know I'll end up changing those last two chapters, they need work, alright, but still, it's over and I even managed to get started on book four. And I found myself feeling this immense sense of pride, because in the space of less than two years I have written four novels. It's a big deal, actually. And it's a lot of work, especially because it's all done by my own self, even the publishing and the (lousy) marketing. It's a lot of hardwork. I tend to be far too hard on myself, but right now I am giving myself high fives for these acomplishments. But I understand that, because I was so intent on finishing that book, my cooking suffered from it.

Well, thankfully this dish was cooked and photographed before the storke of bad culinary luck hit me. I was inspired to cook this dish by a post Aimee Twigg from the Twigg Studios blog had on her instagram feed, of a spelt grain risotto with mushrooms. I love mushrooms. And I find myself on a mushroom craze may times a month - hey, some women have chocolate cravings, I have mushroom craves, go figure! - so I tend to eat and cook with mushrooms a lot of time. I also adoooore spelt grain, and had a pack nearly full in my pantry that I had been thinking hard what to use it for. When I saw Aimee's photo, I knew straight away. I wanted to cook some sort of spelt grain and mushroom stew, with other veggies thrown in, because when it comes to stews I'm a bit of more is always more kind of person.

I don't know if this is in anyway possible of Irish consideration, but there's the green, a lot of it, and I have this - probably quite wrong - idea that mushrooms must abound in Ireland. Also spelt grain makes me think of hops and of beer, and also whisky - I know, it's all in my head, just humour me. So for your St. Patrick's delight, go ahead and try this dish, it's filling, it's vegan, it's nourishing and packed full of deliciousness. It also goes down well with either cider or a Guiness, though I will leave the Guiness for others, as I can't stomach it. But I do love to cook with it, though, truth be said. It's a time consuming dish, I'll grant you that, and it requires time alright, because the grains need to be soaked overnight and then pre-cooked. But it's so worth it. Spelt grain is full of good things for your body and your health, so give it a try if you haven't yet.

For it you will need:
  • 3/2 of a cup of spelt grains that were soaked overnight and pre-cooked for one hour
  • 1 can of button mushrooms
  • 1 cup of mixed dried mushrooms
  • 1 cup frozen spinach leaves
  • 2 ripe tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • half a leek
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 glass of beer or white wine
  • olive oil
  • wild thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
Start by soaking the dried mushrooms in very hot water for at least twenty minutes. The drain them, but keep that stock, it will be useful! iIce the leek, onion and garlic finely and stir fry them on a glug of olive oil until they're tender. Add the chopped dried mushrooms and season them with the wild thyme straight away. Allow to cook slightly, then add the pre-cooked spelt grains. Let them sizzle around in the pan until the olive oil seems to have been absorbed, and then add the glass of beer or wine, whichever you prefer or have handy - of course it will affect the taste, ever so slightly, but it works well with both beverages. Let the liquid absorb into the grains as much as possible, allowing for the alchool to evaporate. Now add the sipnach, the chopped tomatoes and the can of mushrooms, pour in the water from soaking the dried mushrooms and season well. Lower the heat and cover the pan, just not completely. Allow to cook until the spelt grains are really tender and the liquid has quite evaporated. Serve immediately and enjoy. Happy St. Patrick's!