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The easy grains of summer

Categories: News and previews

Celia Brooks talks about the many uses of grains, ahead of her upcoming demo

This summer, I’ve found I’ve been cooking less. I’m eager to embrace the long days, so I’m away from my kitchen more. I’m hungry for all the delicious fresh seasonal produce available, but quick cooking (if any) and assemblage is the key—I’ll only be slaving over a hot stove if it’s a barbecue (actually I’ll be making the salad while my man turns the goods over the coals).

Recently I’ve adopted a neat trick which makes each week’s summer meals quicker, more nutritious, effortlessly filling, and more creative: batch grain cooking. On Sunday night, I’ll cook up a big ol’ pot of grain, leave it to cool completely by spreading out on a tray, then bag it up in the fridge for use in breakfasts, lunches and dinners. I alternate the type week to week, making everything from instant breakfast bowls to gorgeous main course salads in minutes.

Which grains? Whole grains taste best cold, keep well and have the highest nutrition value, the best flavour and greatest appetite grip (ie they keep you fuller for longer). Try short grain brown rice, red or black rice, wheat grains (wheat berries), faro, spelt, barley, bulgur wheat, barley couscous, quinoa, and freekeh.

Quick breakfasts bowls
Breakfast is the best time of day to be eating slow-release carbs such as whole grains—think porridge, but hot cereal is banned in summer, so throw some ready-cooked grains in your breakfast bowl!

Add a couple of handfuls to a bowl of yoghurt, fresh raspberries, and honey, or make the grains the star and treat it like muesli, adding a slosh of coconut milk or yoghurt, dried or fresh fruits, nuts and date syrup or agave.

Try also adding some of the amazing fruit powders available from Spice Mountain such as mango or blueberry powder. If it’s savoury you’re after, try my breakfast favourite: a bowl of grain (cold or heated in the microwave) topped with yoghurt and Sriracha chilli sauce—quinoa is my favourite this way. Try mashing grains with avocado and lemon juice, or why not stir some grains into a bowl of baked beans in place of toast?

Big lunch and dinner salads
The grains are ready to use, so just add protein, fresh veg, and accentuate with fruit, herbs, nuts, and seeds, perhaps some olives or pickles and a simple, fresh and tangy dressing. Grains are your summer canvas—paint yourself a delicious edible picture.

Layer your cooked grains first on a platter or in your lunch box. Next, protein: think chicken, poached salmon, cooked prawns, cured ham, beans and lentils, boiled eggs, and all manner of fantastic cheese: barrel-aged feta from Neal’s Yard Dairy or Oliveology, Sussex Blue from Alsop & Walker, or a creamy goat’s cheese from Ellie’s Dairy.

Pack in as many fresh, raw, leafy greens as you can muster, plus the sweetest tomatoes from The Tomato Stall, a few chopped spring onions, roughly chopped herbs, cucumber, and perhaps fresh peach or mango chunks then load on the crunch and piquancy with savoury nuts from Borough Nuts, and caperberries or olives from Brindisa.

When you’re ready to eat, toss it all together with a simple vinaigrette or the best-ever ready-made dressing I know, yuzu dressing from Fitz Fine Foods.

Join Celia for tips, tastings and recipes on Thursday 21st July in the Market Hall, 12:30-2pm