Pancetta, Mushroom and Spelt Broth


In the run up to Christmas, I always like to try to eat fairly healthily during the week (beetroot and fried egg burger aside). There’s always so much eating and drinking going on at the weekends that I like to make sure we get at least some vitamins and minerals throughout the week. The serious comfort eating starts anew in January!

You’d be correct if you pointed out that this particular recipe isn’t packed that full of veg – however, swapping a stodgy carbohydrate such as pasta or bread with spelt adds a boost of health to the dish.

If you haven’t eaten spelt before, it’s a seriously underrated little grain which works beautifully in a broth such as this. It holds its own with the deep, earthy flavours of mushroom and pancetta and adds just a little bite to an otherwise fairly liquid broth – think pearl barley.

This recipe is ready in 30 minutes and will serve at least 4.

Pancetta, Mushroom and Spelt Broth

200g pancetta, cubed

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 bay leaves

1 small glass white wine

1 litre vegetable stock

5 or 6 dried porcini

2 tomatoes, chopped

150g button mushrooms, sliced

250g ready to eat spelt

1 small handful parsley

Parmesan, to serve

1. Put the pancetta in a large casserole dish over a medium heat, cook until golden.

2. Add the onion, bay leaves and garlic, sizzle for two minutes then pour in the white wine. Bring to the boil then add the stock.

3. Add the porcini and tomatoes, put the lid on the dish and simmer for 10 minutes.

4. Add the mushrooms and spelt, put the lid back on and cook for another 6-7 minutes. Season with a little salt and plenty of black pepper.

5. Take off the heat, stir in the chopped parsley and serve each bowl topped with a generous grating of parmesan.

Pearl Barley, Vegetable and Bacon Broth


This is a real winter warmer. It would be perfect on a wet, stormy day when you come through the door shivering and soaked to the bone. The weather was actually fairly still and dry today, but this broth was still like a wonderful hug in a bowl when we got in.

‘Broth’ is such a lovely wintery word anyway isn’t it? It’s comfort food but without any of the unhealthy connotations. This one is packed full of autumnal vegetables, which can’t help but make you feel better – especially if you’ve managed to pick up a cold.

I served this with wedges of crusty bread, but it’s easily substantial enough to have by itself.

This will serve 4 and be ready in about 40 minutes.

Pearl Barley, Vegetable and Bacon Broth

1 tbsp olive oil

300g smoked bacon lardons

2 leeks

2 carrots

2 cloves garlic

250g pearl barley

1 tbsp dijon mustard

1 glass white wine

650ml chicken stock

1 tsp dried rosemary

1 tsp dried thyme

1 small cabbage

1. Put the oil in a large casserole dish/saucepan and put on a high heat. Add the bacon lardons and cook until starting to crisp.

2. Add the sliced leeks and carrots and turn down the heat. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring often to make sure it doesn’t catch.

3. Add the chopped garlic and cook for a further 30 seconds. Tip in the pearl barley and mustard, stir, then add the wine. Let it simmer down for a few seconds, then add the stock, rosemary, thyme and a little salt and pepper. Stir well, cover, and cook for another 10-15 minutes.

4. Taste the broth – add a little more seasoning or mustard if it needs and extra kick, then add the thinly sliced cabbage. Put the lid back on and cook for a further 5 minutes. Done!