Pearled spelt might not be a kitchen cupboard staple for many, but chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has come up with a delicious way to use the interesting rice alternative.

“Creamy coconut milk and chunky grains of pearled spelt make this veg-packed dish rich and satisfying,” says the River Cottage TV presenter and chef. “It makes a lovely main meal for three people – but serves four or more if you add a dish of dhal too.”

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s spelteree (Simon Wheeler/PA)
(Simon Wheeler/PA)
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s spelteree (Simon Wheeler/PA)
Print Recipe
Nutrition Facts
Mushroom and spinach spelteree
Amount Per Serving
Calories 442 Calories from Fat 234
% Daily Value*
Fat 26g40%
Saturated Fat 14g88%
Sodium 65mg3%
Potassium 1086mg31%
Carbohydrates 49g16%
Fiber 10g42%
Sugar 9g10%
Protein 14g28%
Vitamin A 4857IU97%
Vitamin C 70mg85%
Calcium 129mg13%
Iron 8mg44%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Mushroom and spinach spelteree

Creamy coconut milk adds a rich flavour
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: British, Vegan
Servings: 3
Calories: 442kcal
Author: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall


  • Sieve
  • Saucepan
  • Pestle and mortar
  • Large frying pan


  • 125 g pearled spelt or pearl barley
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds (optional)
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 large onion quartered and sliced
  • 250 g chestnut or open cap mushrooms cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves finely grated or crushed
  • 1 medium-hot red or green chilli deseeded (for less heat, if preferred) and chopped
  • 200 ml coconut milk
  • 150 g spinach any tough stalks removed
  • 1 lemon finely grated zest
  • 1/2 lemon juice
  • sea salt
  • black pepper
  • coriander leaves to finishSoak the pearled spelt or barley in cold water for 20–30 minutes, if you have time. Soaked or not, rinse the grain thoroughly in a sieve, then tip into a saucepan.


  • Soak the pearled spelt or barley in cold water for 20–30 minutes, if you have time. Soaked or not, rinse the grain thoroughly in a sieve, then tip into a saucepan.
  • Cover with plenty of water (it will expand a lot) and add a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and put the lid on. Simmer until tender – about 20 minutes for spelt, 40 minutes for barley. When the grain is tender, drain and return to the pan (off the hob) to keep warm.
  • Meanwhile, use a pestle and mortar or spice grinder to pound or grind the cumin, coriander and fenugreek seeds, if using. It doesn’t matter if the cumin and coriander stay quite coarse, but the fenugreek should be broken down to a powder.
  • Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion with a pinch of salt and fry for about 10 minutes, until soft, letting it colour just a little, but not brown.
  • Add the mushrooms and fry with the onion for about five minutes until tender and lightly coloured. Keep stirring so the liquid released by the mushrooms can evaporate.
  • Add the pounded spices and cook, stirring, for a minute or two. Add the ginger, garlic and chilli and stir briefly, then pour in the coconut milk. Stir well, making sure the coconut milk is fully amalgamated and mixed in. Scrape up any bits of caramelised veg or spice adhering to the base.
  • Bring the coconut milk to a simmer and let it bubble gently for a couple of minutes to reduce a little. Then add the spinach, a handful at a time, stirring it in as it wilts.
  • Take the pan off the heat and stir in the lemon zest and juice. Add the cooked spelt or barley to the pan and stir well. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed, then spoon into warmed dishes, scatter with coriander, and serve.


Calories: 442kcal | Carbohydrates: 49g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Sodium: 65mg | Potassium: 1086mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 4857IU | Vitamin C: 70mg | Calcium: 129mg | Iron: 8mg

River Cottage Much More Veg by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is published by Bloomsbury, £18.52. Photography by Simon Wheeler.

Try Hugh’s pepper, potato and chard stew.

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