We all know beans and lentils are good for us, but real alternatives to refined grains such as pasta and white rice have become very popular in recent years, starting off with couscous and quinoa and now moving on to others such as farro, spelt and freekeh. They’re just as substantial as traditional carbohydrates as well as being more flavourful and able to take on spices, seasoning and herbs more easily.

Wholesome Grains & How to Cook them

Most are easy to cook, and you can find one to suit your tastes, the amount of time you have and the meal you want to eat. Here’s how to cook the most popular wholesome grains…

Farro is a type of ‘ancient’ wheat grain often used in place or rice or pasta, it retains a chewy, nutty texture instead of a soft one like other grains. It takes a while to cook – bring it to a boil in a saucepan, then once boiling simmer for 30 minutes with the lid closed until cooked through.

How to eat: Used a lot in Italian cooking, it carries flavours really well. Go heavy on the herbs, garlic and olive oil – it makes a lovely warm salad with fresh tomatoes.

One of the most widely used wholesome grains, it’s easy to adapt to your tastes and takes on flavour really well, as well as having a nutty flavour of it’s own. Boil in 2 parts water to one part quinoa for around 10 – 15 minutes.

How to eat: Add your favourite dressing, green vegetables, feta and an avocado for lunch, or serve with a ragu, stew or curry for a healthier alternative to bread or pasta.

This is the newest wholesome grain to become popular, it’s a roasted green wheat available either cracked or as the whole grain – the former being quicker to cook. Add 5 parts water to 2 parts freekeh, bring to the boil and then simmer very gently for 15 minutes for cracked grain or 30-40 minutes for the whole grain.

How to eat: Use in replacement of rice for a pilaf or rice salad, or as a side with grilled chicken or fish.

A substantial and filling grain similar in texture to pearl barley but quicker to cook. Boil in water or stock, just covering the spelt, for 20 minutes.

How to eat: Part cook and stir into fried onions for a take on risotto – ‘speltotto’ – and add stock and parmesan along with your choice of vegetables. Add to soups to bulk them out or to make a filling salad for lunch or barbecues.

So enjoy experimenting with these healthier options and feel great about it too!

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