Go with the grain


Are Food Wor­ries keep­ing you awake at night? Are you wak­ing at 3am re­al­is­ing it has been weeks of sausages and mash, chicken and roasties, burg­ers and chips? Too much meat, not enough greens, no fruit to speak of, no grains, no legumes. Worry worms wrig­gling every­where. Let’s get back on track. SunRice, Aus­tralia’s rice in­dus­try colos­sus is keen to get us on mes­sage. The com­pany re­cently com­pleted 18 months of re­search fo­cused on eat­ing habits and can con­firm that, yes plenty of us do worry about the good­ness – or not – of what we eat and how our food can af­fect our health. The other nig­gle is FOMA or fear of miss­ing out. Tele­vi­sion has been awash with culi­nary ad­ven­tures and cook­ing shows for nearly a decade now and new in­gre­di­ents, new di­ets and new ways with old dishes con­tinue to bom­bard us. Cook­ing is po­si­tioned some­where be­tween a leisurely ex­er­cise and an ex­haust­ing ad­ven­ture and it’s all rather wor­ri­some.

SunRice has a stack of new prod­ucts de­signed to dis­pel such con­cerns: A range of gourmet rices that reads as if they came from the hid­den king­dom – red rice, black rice, Koshi­hikari sushi rice, and ac­knowl­edg­ing the in­ter­est in grains known and grown in an­cient civ­i­liza­tions,a range fea­tur­ing com­bi­na­tions of old and new, such as rice with quinoa, rice with chia.

There is more to grains than rice though, and af­ter a long long time as an un­der­study in lowly broths and stews, bar­ley has emerged as the new grain for risot­tos and pi­lafs. Wheat is a grain we are fa­mil­iar with but there are con­tenders. Farro, freekah, spelt, quinoa – of­fi­cially a seed not a grain – are all mak­ing a bid for at­ten­tion. These an­cient grains might re­quire a change in cook­ing tech­niques but for most it will be a sim­ple soak­ing, drain­ing, sim­mer­ing and adding flavour­some herbs and or spices. If there are culi­nary wor­ries, let’s re­mind our­selves that at some stage ev­ery­thing was new. Who do you think dis­cov­ered the seeds of weeds would make a por­ridge? A home cook seek­ing some­thing new of course.


The nutty flavour and slip­pery tex­ture of bar­ley is lovely with the earth­i­ness of mush­rooms. Bar­ley is a sub­stan­tial grain and the dish will serve 4-6 250g pearled bar­ley 1 litre qual­ity chicken stock – if you’re us­ing commercial stock, make sure it’s not sweet­ened 120g smoky ba­con (or pancetta), diced 3 large shal­lots , finely diced 5 cloves gar­lic, finely chopped 350g mush­rooms, sliced – use a mix such as swiss browns and large flats and any wild mush­rooms if avail­able 3 sprigs thyme Salt flakes Freshly ground pep­per 150ml dry white wine 60g parme­san or grana padano, finely grated But­ter 4 sprigs sage, leaves only Bring a litre of wa­ter to the boil, add the bar­ley and sim­mer for 20 min­utes, then drain well. Heat the chicken stock in a saucepan and keep on a low heat. Put the diced ba­con in a heavy­based or cast iron saucepan, and fry over a medium heat for about 5 min­utes un­til the fat ren­ders off and the ba­con starts to crispen. Add the shal­lots and gar­lic and cook for 3 min­utes or un­til soft­ened. Add the mush­rooms and the thyme (and a lit­tle but­ter if it’s too dry), sea­son and cook to soften. Add drained bar­ley and white wine, stir and re­duce. Add the hot stock grad­u­ally while stir­ring, just like mak­ing risotto, un­til the bar­ley is cooked – if you like a nutty, chewy bar­ley, make sure there is some tex­ture left in the grain. If you run out of stock you can use a lit­tle hot wa­ter. And if you run out of pa­tience,or pre­fer your bar­ley ten­der, cover the pan and leave on low heat for an­other 5-15 min­utes (check­ing of­ten)un­til the de­gree of ‘cooked’ is to your lik­ing. Once the bar­ley is cooked, stir in the grated cheese and some but­ter if it needs en­rich­ing. In a small pan, fry the sage leaves in a lit­tle but­ter un­til they crisp up. Drain, sea­son and place on the risotto just be­fore serv­ing.


A warm salad for au­tumn, with spiced cau­li­flower and the sharp tart notes of diced lemon and plums un­der­scored by the tang of pome­gran­ate mo­lasses. 1 brown onion, finely chopped 1⁄ cup un­cooked freekeh

2 7 Tbsp olive oil, di­vided mea­sure 250ml-300ml veg­etable stock 1 small cau­li­flower, bro­ken into small flo­rets 2 Tbsp plain flour 2 tsp garam masala (or 1⁄ tsp each of

2 ground cumin, co­rian­der, cloves and cin­na­mon) 400g can lentils, rinsed and drained 1⁄ lemon, peel and pith re­moved, flesh

2 diced 1 large plum, the flesh diced small 3⁄ cup wal­nuts, toasted

4 2 Tbsp ex­tra vir­gin olive oil 2 1⁄ Tbsp pome­gran­ate mo­lasses

2 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 15-20 min­utes, adding more liq­uid if nec­es­sary. The grains should be ten­der but firm not sloppy. Mean­while, cut cau­li­flower into small flo­rets and place in a large bowl. Mix flour and ground spices, add to cauli and toss to coat. Heat re­main­ing oil in large fry­pan. Add spice-dusted cau­li­flower and fry over medium-low heat for 10 min­utes un­til all the flo­rets are soft and golden. Add ex­tra oil if re­quired. Add drained lentils to the wam cau­li­flower then the still warm freekeh, diced raw lemon and plum, and nuts. Driz­zle with ex­tra vir­gin olive oil and pome­gran­ate mo­lasses and serve.


SunRice Rice & Bar­ley is a high fi­bre mix of brown rice and bar­ley. It has a rich nutty flavour and firm tex­ture. The gen­tle boil in­struc­tion method on the pack works well. Put 1 cup bar­ley and rice in large saucepan, add 8 cups cold wa­ter, bring to boil and let sim­mer for at least 30 min­utes. Re­move from heat when cooked to ten­der­ness and drain. Serves 4 hun­gry people. 1 Tbsp cook­ing oil 600g diced lamb 1 Tbsp flour 1 large red onion, finely slicked 1 large red cap­sicum (pep­per), seeded, halved and cut into strips 2 tsp ground cumin 3 tsp ground co­rian­der 1⁄ tsp chilli flakes

2 1 Tbsp fresh gin­ger, grated 3 tsp lemon zest 4-6 fresh toma­toes chopped, or 1 can of chopped toma­toes Hand­ful of green and black olives 1 pre­served lemon, peel only 100ml wa­ter Fresh co­rian­der to serve Heat most of the oil in a large heavy-based oven to hob dish (tagine or casse­role). Put lamb and flour in a bowl and toss to coat the lamb – shake off any ex­cess. Add the floured lamb to the hot oil and brown lightly. Re­move from pan and put aside. Scrape up any meaty flour residue, add a lit­tle more oil, then the onion and cap­sicum slices, cook un­til soft. Stir in the spices and the grated gin­ger and cook for a minute or two. Add the zest and the toma­toes, the olives and pre­served lemon (the skin only; dis­card the flesh) and the wa­ter. Cook gen­tly for a few min­utes then taste and add salt and pep­per to pref­er­ence. Cover and sim­mer gen­tly for one hour stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally. OR put the cov­ered dish in a 175C oven and leave to cook for an hour check­ing oc­ca­sion­ally that the liq­uid hasn’t evap­o­rated. Mean­while, cook bar­ley and rice ac­cord­ing to packet di­rec­tions. To serve put the rice and bar­ley on the plate/ plat­ter, ar­range meat and veg­eta­bles over, scat­ter with chopped co­rian­der and serve.


An­cient & mod­ern: Bar­ley, rice and a Moroc­can lamb tagine.

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