Grain-phobic? Don’t be – unprocessed grains are rich in essential nutrients and according to Laura Agar Wilson, blogger and author of new book Grains as Mains, they won’t make you fat. She’s chosen five grains you need in your diet
As more of us become conscious of our health, a natural place to start improving our lifestyle is by starting with our diet. The standard western diet include grains that are generally highly processed and don’t contain a lot of nutrients.
As we seek out more nutrient dense food, ancient grains have enjoyed a surge in popularity. Ancient whole grains have been cultivated and eaten by cultures across the world for hundreds of years. These whole unprocessed grains contain many more nutrients than their processed counterparts, including protein, fibre, B vitamins, antioxidants and minerals.
There is a wealth of these ancient whole grains to choose from. Many are naturally gluten free too. It’s challenging to choose my favourite, but here are 5 new grains I love that will make a healthy and tasty addition to your kitchen pantry:
Probably one of the most popular ancient grains, Quinoa is highly versatile and can be used in a number of ways. It cooks quickly so is convenient to eat if you are short on time. It can be cooked into a porridge like consistency and enjoyed for breakfast, added to salads or soups or used to make veggie burgers or falafel. It’s a brilliant grain for vegetarians, vegans or anyone trying to lose weight as it’s high in protein which will keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Goodies: magnesium, phosphorus, manganese and folate
How to cook: To remove the bitter coating of quinoa rinse it well before cooking. Boil for 10-15 minutes.
I really adore buckwheat, it’s another very versatile grain with a delicious nutty taste, and despite its name, it’s actually wheat and gluten free. You can purchase the whole grain as well as buckwheat flour which is the milled grain. Buckwheat can be soaked and eaten as it is, or cooked. You can also toast buckwheat in a pan or in the oven to develop it’s nutty flavour. As a flour, it’s perfect as a replacement for wheat flour if you are avoiding gluten.
whole unprocessed grains contain many more nutrients than their processed counterparts
Goodies: Good source of magnesium, copper and manganese.
How to cook: Rinse thoroughly add one part buckwheat to two parts boiling water and cook for 12-15 minutes.
Freekeh is one of the more unusual grains, but it’s one you should definitely become familiar with! Freekeh is still actually wheat, but it’s wheat which has been harvested early while it is still green. The wheat is roasted and rubbed which gives it a delicious rich nutty smoky flavour. It’s also extremely high in fibre, with four times as much fibre as brown rice and contains just as much protein as Quinoa. It’s texture creates a delicious risotto or pilaf.
Goodies: High in protein, iron and copper.
How to cook: Cooking times of freekeh varies depending on whether you are using wholegrain or cracked freekeh. Hence, always follow the directions on the pack.
Barley is a beautiful grain which has a chewy meaty texture. It’s another grain that’s very high in fibre and is a great source of magnesium and selenium, two nutrients many of us are deficient in. It can be cooked with a creamy texture as in a risotto or cooked to a more nutty texture where it is delicious added to salads or soups.
Many grains are naturally gluten free
Goodies: High in fibre, selenium, vitamin B1 and manganese.
How to cook: Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and cook for 45 minutes.
Millet is a traditional grain which is eaten widely across Asia. It is similar to Quinoa in that it can be cooked quite quickly. As well as the whole grain you can purchase millet flakes which can be added to muesli or porridge or added to baked recipes. Millet is a great source of manganese which supports bone and skin health.
Goodies: Manganese, copper and vitamins B1 and B3.
How to cook: Millet does not need any rinsing before cooking. Boil for 10-15 minutes.
RECIPE: American style soaked buckwheat pancakes with cherry almond sauce
It’s difficult to choose my favourite recipe from the book, but I would have to go for the American style soaked buckwheat pancakes with cherry almond sauce. The soaking ensures that the buckwheat flour is well digested with all of its nutrients readily available for maximum absorption. It also makes them quick and easy to prepare, as the batter doesn’t need to be rested before cooking. I love the nutty flavour of the buckwheat pancakes paired with the sweetness of the cherry sauce and creaminess of the yoghurt, it makes a perfect lazy breakfast dish the whole family would love!
FOR THE BATTER
150g (51⁄2oz) buckwheat flour 60ml (2fl oz) plain yogurt 200ml (7fl oz) milk
3⁄4 tsp baking soda
1⁄4 tsp baking powder
1⁄2 tsp vanilla extract
1⁄8 tsp salt
1–2 tbsp coconut oil, plus extra if needed
Greek yogurt, to serve
FOR THE SAUCE
350g (12oz) cherries, stoned 3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp almond extract
1. For the batter, place the flour, yogurt, and milk in a large bowl. Mix to combine, cover with a kitchen towel, and leave at room temperature for 8 hours or up to 24 hours.
2. Place the eggs, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk lightly until well blended. Then gradually pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and whisk until well combined.
3. Heat a large non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat and add the oil once the pan is hot. Pour tablespoons of the batter into the pan, leaving space between them for the pancakes to spread. Each pancake should spread to about 15cm (6in) in diameter.
4. Cook the pancakes until small bubbles appear on the surface and the underside is firm. Then turn them over and cook for a further 1–2 minutes or until cooked through. Transfer the cooked pancakes to a warm oven. Continue cooking until all the batter is used up, adding more oil to the pan as needed.
5. For the sauce, place the cherries in a large, lidded saucepan and cover with 100ml (31⁄2fl oz) water. Add the sugar and place the pan over a medium-high heat. Cover and simmer until the cherries have broken down. Then uncover and cook until the liquid becomes syrupy. Remove from the heat and stir in the almond extract. Serve the cherry almond sauce with the pancakes and Greek yogurt.
Grains as Mains (£11.89 published by Dorling Kindersley) contains some delicious recipes using these grains, as well as an in depth guide to ancient grains, their nutritional benefits and how to store, prepare and cook them.
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