Pot barley spilling out of a metal cup

How to cook grains

Harness the power of these staple superfoods

Step aside rice and wheat, the world is waking up to the benefits of these ancient grains as they’re full of good stuff.

We’ve covered the basics of cooking these grains below – try substituting vegetable stock for plain water when using in savoury dishes and adding in herbs such as rosemary or thyme, for a greater depth of flavour.

How to cook quinoa

Star qualities: Gluten-free, packed with protein and one of the few plant foods containing all nine essential amino acids. Also comes in flour form.

Ratio: 2 cups water to 1 cup quinoa

Simmer for 12 minutes, until all the water has been absorbed and the little curly “tail” has popped out – this is the super-nutritious endosperm that feeds the grain while it’s growing.

Cooked quinoa seeds become fluffy and creamy, with a slight crunch. Its delicate nutty flavour is perfect as a base for salads or as a side for dinner.

Try: Warm Green Vegetable & Quinoa Salad

How to cook amaranth

Star qualities: Another one that contains all the essential amino acids, along with fibre, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and iron. It helps keep the digestive system regular and is thought to be a powerful anti-inflammatory.

Ratio: 2½ cups water to 1 cup amaranth

Simmer for 20 minutes, until the seeds are fluffy and all the liquid has been absorbed. When cooked slowly, it’s perfect for porridge or used in salads and stews.

Try: Popped amaranth for a breakfast cereal (like rice krispies). Place in a pan with a little oil, over heat to give it a nice toasted flavour.

How to cook teff

Star qualities: High in fibre, full of protein, iron, calcium and manganese.

Ratio: 3 cups water to 1 cup teff

Teff is a sweet-tasting grain with a nutty flavour. Simmer for 15 minutes then remove from heat and let sit covered for 3 minutes. Mix with chia seeds, honey, berries, cinnamon, nuts and almond milk for a delicious breakfast bowl.

Try: Teff flour is great for making delicious breads, and the grain works well in flapjacks.

How to cook freekeh

Star qualities: It’s fibre-rich, which means it makes you feel fuller for longer.

Ratio: 2 cups water to 1 cup freekeh

Freekeh is wheat that’s harvested when young, roasted, then the straw and chaff are burnt and rubbed off. The grain inside is too moist to burn, so it leaves a firm chewy grain with a smoky, nutty flavour.
Wash the grain first by rinsing and rubbing until the water runs clear. Simmer for about 15 minutes for cracked freekeh and 45 minutes for wholegrain. Remove from the heat and fluff with a fork.

Try: Sauteing cooked freekeh with some veg and herbs, and stuffing vine or cabbage leaves, for a great packed lunch snack.

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How to cook buckwheat

Star qualities: High in protein, buckwheat may reduce blood cholesterol, body fat, and cholesterol gallstones. Also comes in flour form.

Ratio: 2 cups water to 1 cup buckwheat

Buckwheat comes in two forms: kasha (toasted) and groats (untoasted). If you’re using kasha, simmer for 15–20 minutes. If you’re using groats, rinse and simmer for 20–30 minutes, until tender. Use buckwheat groats as a rice substitute or to make a porridge.

Try: Parmesan Buckwheat Breakfast Waffles using buckwheat flour.

How to cook millet

Star qualities: Boosting good digestion, helping fight asthma and reducing bad cholesterol.

Ratio: 2½ cups water to 1 cup grain millet

Millet fluffs up like couscous or, if you cook it for longer, turns into a smooth mash. Simmer for at least 25 minutes and then toss it with a fork. You can also toast the grain in a frying pan, before cooking with liquid, to give it a nutty flavour.

Try: Coconut and Millet Cherry Biscuits

How to cook spelt

Star qualities: Helps regulate metabolism, increases circulation, build strong bones, improves immunity and digestion, and lowers blood sugar and bad cholesterol. Also comes in flour form.

Ratio: 3 cups water to 1 cup spelt
This one needs quite some cooking! Simmer for 1½ hours, or until tender. Spelt works really well in risotto-style dishes, tossed through a salad, or as a thickener in a soup or a stew. It also works well as a substitute in rice pudding.

Try: Mango, Lime and Mint Spelt Crepes using spelt flour

How to cook pot barley

Star qualities: Boosts growth and repair, this plant-based protein can help us build muscle, keep us feeling fuller for longer and increases metabolism, making it easier to manage weight.

Ratio: 3 cups water to 1 cup grain barley

Pot barley is barley with only the outermost, inedible husk removed. Pearl barley has been both husked and polished, so is less nutritious. Soak pot barley in cold water overnight, then simmer it for 45–50 minutes, until tender.

Try: Pairing with the beetroot or add it into your next tabbouleh.

Handpicked content: 7 alternative flours to try today

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Vegetarian Recipes