All Aboard The Grain Train!

I didn’t especially have an opinion on grains until I read Diana Henry’s A Change of Appetite in October last year.

The premise of Diana’s cookbook is finding really amazing cuisines that are incidentally delicious. Her recipes blew my mind, they were exotic, intriguing and obviously, incredibly tasty. I also loved the many articles in the book giving her interpretation on healthy eating. There are features on calories, the lessons we can learn from Japanese cooking, the miracle of broth, good fat and bad fat, dieting and grains. Her thoughts are measured, well researched and inspiring.

The section on grains really caught my eye.  Ingredients such as barley, buckwheat and farro are cheap as chips, packed with an astonishing amount of nutrition and prepared the right way, despite their rather dull reputation, are versatile and bloody gorgeous. Unfortunately in a Western diet we tend to eat a lot of processed grains (white rice, white bread, pasta) that have had most of their nutrients stripped away.

I was further convinced by Diana’s argument to get more grains in my life by the cracking recipes in her book.  Favourites included:

  • kisir (an autumnal tabbouleh with pomegranite seeds) served with griddled aubergine, date, walnut and yoghurt salad
  • a pilaf of mixed grains with sweet potato and fennel with avocado ‘cream’
grains Griddled aubergine, date, walnut and yoghurt salad and kisir
Griddled aubergine, date, walnut and yoghurt salad and kisir

So a seed was planted in the back of my head ten months ago when I read A Change of Appetite. I decided to try to eat less white rice, white flour, pasta and to strive to eat more grains like quinoa, freekah and millet. However that’s easily said given I’m an experimental cook and I like eating out. I can’t say I succeeded. But, luckily I came across the Grains, Seeds and Legumes cookbook a couple of months ago by Molly Brown.  It’s packed with imaginative ways to use a wide range of grains, taking its inspiration from Middle Eastern, Moroccan, Indian and Spanish cuisines. We’ve had some stunning meals.  And the thing with eating grain fuelled meals is they are not only delicious, but leave you feeling full in a very satisfied, light way.  And sadly with refined carbohydrates like white bread you are hungry again quickly.

I’m still not treating my body as a temple, I eat a lot of cakes – although healthier versions, enjoy more than my fair share of wine and mainline diet drinks which are packed full of chemicals. However, I feel I’m at least moving away from a refined carbohydrate heavy diet and towards more grains in my meals.  And rather than feeling I’m on some miserable healthy eating regime, I feel like I’m on a tasty adventure!

grains Quinoa, chicken and black beans with avocado puree
Quinoa, chicken and black beans with avocado puree
grains Turkish barley and lentil salad with tahini dressing
Turkish barley and lentil salad with tahini dressing
grains Warm barley with roast pumpkin and feta
Warm barley with roast pumpkin and feta

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