While everyone has been focusing on best techniques for preparing Easter lamb, I’ve been thinking about how to freshen up my diet for the spring. One way to do that is to reduce the amount of refined white flour and to introduce more fiber, fruits and vegetables. I do, however, love that nice slice of sourdough bread (search for recipes in this blog) and find it hard to give up that zone of my culinary life. There is a way, however, to include that slice or two and improve the quality of your diet. Dinkel or spelt is one answer.
First a little background on dinkel. It’s been grown for consumption in northern Europe for the past 3000 years making it one of our oldest grains. During the 19th century and into the 20th production of spelt reduced considerably as it was more labor-intensive to produce than our modern white flour. Thanks to the continuation of limited production in southern Germany and Switzerland, dinkel was kept alive as a healthy grain alternative.
Dinkel offers excellent benefits from both health and environmental points of view. First, I need to clarify one misunderstood issue: dinkel is easier for people who are gluten-intolerant to consume, but it isn’t gluten-free. In contrast to regular wheat flour, dinkel contains essential nutrients not only in the husk but also inside the grain. These include essential amino acids, vitamins B1 and B2 and several essential minerals such as iron, copper and zinc. In comparison to whole wheat flour, the nutritional differences are not as great until you examine the environmental differences. The husk of spelt protects it from spoilage by many of the pests and diseases that afflict regular wheat. For this reason it is easier to grow biodynamically. Spelt is also less demanding on the soil, growing even in poor soils.
As we learn increasingly that the key to meeting our nutritional needs into the future rests partly on bringing greater diversity into our diets, I cannot recommend trying spelt more. While you can purchase it in the form of flour and use it in baking just as you would any regular flour, I suggest trying to integrate it into salads and as a side dish in meals as a substitute for whatever starch you would otherwise consume with your meal. If you are going to try it, you’ll need to remember that the whole grains you purchase from your local grocery will need to be soaked overnight and then cooked over low heat for an hour or so to be ready to used in preparing breads and other dishes. While this preparation time might seem long, you can prepare a batch for the week and store it in a tupperware container to use whenever you need it.
As we enter into a season where we’ll be able to enjoy tomatoes and parsley grown closer to home, I thought of the following simple lunchtime salad recipe which is also a very satisfying accompaniment.
Dinkel & Tomato Salad
4 dl or 2 cups whole dinkel, soaked and cooked
4 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, chopped into bite-sized pieces
Handful of fresh parsley, chopped
Parsley for garnishing
150 g or 5 oz feta cheese
For the dressing:
1 dl or 1/2 cup rapeseed or olive oil
2 tbsps apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp honey
4 tbsps water
Pinch of salt and pepper
Combine the prepared dinkel, tomatoes and chopped parsley in a mixing bowl. Combine the dressing ingredients in a clean, empty jar with a lid. Screw on the lid tightly and shake so that the dressing blends smoothly. Pour the dressing over the dinkel mixture. Place the dinkel mixture on a serving dish, crumble over the feta cheese and garnish with parsley. Enjoy!
If you can read Swedish and have been looking for the ultimate dinkel recipe book you can now order Gotland Dinkelcentrum’s book by Icelandic Sophia Bövarsdottir which provides 87 pages of dinkel recipes! Let me know if you can find a good English equivalent that I can recommend.