I’ve been on a bit of a spelt kick lately. I know some of you will be nodding enthusiastically and others grimacing and preparing to click away. Spelt has a bit of a bad rap as cardboard-like health food and that honestly hasn’t been helped by any of the mealy and disgusting spelt bread I’ve eaten in my time. But you know I don’t  like ‘health food’ – I do like food that is healthy but deliciousness is my main motivation and spelt (whisper it) is pretty darn tasty. I found this brand, Amisa, in our local international food store, and not only is it organic but it is dried over beechwood, which gives it a slightly smoky flavour.

I decided to treat it a bit like barley or quinoa and make a main-dish ‘salad’ out of it. My love of hearty salads comes from Southeast Asian cooking, which considers salads of cooked meat mixed with raw vegtables and dressings to be a substantial category of meal, not just a side. But the ingredients in this dish are southern Mediterranean rather than Asian: we had some nice little tomatoes (for a change) and I bought a couple of steaks from the Nice Butcher. I centred the dressing on sumac, one of my favourite Middle Eastern ingredients.

Steak and spelt salad with sumac dressing

  • 1 cup spelt
  • 1 large or 2 small steaks (you could use skirt, sirloin, or anything not too pricey)
  • a large handful of cherry tomatoes
  • a generous bunch of flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tbsp sumac
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp of chili powder
  • a good glug of olive oil

Start by cooking the spelt: it will cook like brown rice, generally, taking about 45 minutes to simmer. While it cooks, prepare the raw ingredients. Quarter the tomatoes and chop the parsley finely.

Make the dresssing by pounding the garlic to a paste in a mortar and pestle, then adding sumac, chili powder, and a generous pinch of good salt then adding olive oil and stirring to a deeply coloured loose slurry.

Season the steaks generously with salt and pepper and grill them till medium rare.

When the steaks are rested, slice thinly, making sure to retain the juices for your dressing. Mix everything together in a big bowl and serve either immediately as a warm salad or at room temperature.

Serves 2-3, or more as part of a mezze platter.