Grains reign again
Baked portabello mushrooms topped with quinoa and feta. Photo: Marina Oliphant
They've been around forever and ancient grains are enjoying a renaissance, popping up on the shelves of smart food stores and restaurant menus alike. Not just for health-food nuts, everyone can enjoy these delicious grains.
Quinoa, an ancient crop worshipped by the Incas, is a seed. High in protein, a good source of fibre and gluten-free, it is available in red and white varieties that are easily cooked like rice, using the absorption method. Try cooking in stock for added flavour.
Freekeh, an ancient Arab form of wheat, is made by roasting green wheat grains. Because the grains are harvested while still young, freekeh contains more protein, vitamins and minerals than mature grains do. It is low-GI, low-carb and high in fibre. It has a sweet, earthy flavour and can be added to soups, stuffings and salads.
Farro, an ancient wheat grain found in Italy, is said to have fuelled the Roman army. It is similar to spelt and barley but when cooked retains a firm, chewy texture. Regional crop differences produce different grades of farro. It is sold as a whole grain but can also be bought ''semi pearled'', a process that removes some bran and germ (and some of the goodness).
This grain is quicker to cook, while whole farro takes longer and benefits from soaking for up to eight hours before cooking. Add to soups or cook in stock because it soaks up flavour. Delicious in salads and with vegetables, it's versatile, with a nutty flavour.
Be tempted to try these ancient grains, starting with the recipes here, and add them to your repertoire. You'll be delighted to discover that they are not only are good for you but delicious, too.
Inspired by a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe, aromatic baked autumn mushrooms are topped with the delicious nutty flavour of quinoa and creamy goat's cheese.
8 medium portobello mushrooms
50g unsalted butter
A few sprigs of thyme
150ml dry white wine
150ml vegetable stock
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups water
1 cup quinoa
320g jar marinated goat's feta
Micro herbs for garnish
Preheat oven to 180C. Place mushrooms in a large baking tray, dot with butter and scatter over thyme sprigs. Add wine, stock and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cover tray with foil and cook for 15 minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan bring two cups water to the boil, add quinoa, reduce heat, cover with a lid and cook for 10-15 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff the quinoa with a fork. To serve, spoon the quinoa over the mushrooms, add a dollop of goat's feta and scatter over the micro herbs. Season with extra salt and pepper if required.
Serves 4 (or 8 as a starter)
A warm salad for autumn, with spiced cauliflower, a hint of fresh herbs and the delightful sour tang from pomegranate molasses.
7 tbsp olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
500ml vegetable stock
1/2 cauliflower, broken into small florets
1/4 cup plain flour
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
400g tin lentils, rinsed and drained
1 cup walnuts, toasted
1/3 cup mint
1/3 cup coriander
1/3 cup basil
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
Soak freekeh for five minutes, then drain. Heat one tablespoon oil in a medium pot, saute onion until softened, add freekeh then add stock and cook for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cut cauliflower into small florets and place in a large bowl. Mix flour, cumin and coriander. Toss cauliflower in spiced flour to coat. Heat remaining oil in large frypan. Add spice-dusted cauliflower and fry over medium-low heat for 10 minutes until cauliflower is soft and golden. Add extra oil if required. Toss with freekeh, scatter over drained lentils, pomegranate seeds, toasted walnuts and fresh herbs. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and pomegranate molasses and serve.
It's the perfect weather for this kind of soup. With the farro and the vegetables, it makes a simple Sunday night supper.
1 brown onion
1 celery stick
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp ground fennel
1 tsp ground cumin
1 stick cinnamon
1 litre vegetable stock
1/2 cup farro
400g tin chickpeas
1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves, picked
Chop onion, celery, carrot and leek into medium-size cubes. Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a heavy-based pot, add diced vegetables and cook over low heat for five minutes. Add the garlic, fennel, cumin, cinnamon and saffron and cook for a further minute. Add stock and bring to the boil. Add farro and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes. Cut pumpkin into medium cubes and add to pot. Simmer for 25-30 minutes until vegetables are soft and farro is cooked. Add chickpeas and heat through. Scatter over coriander and serve.