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How to choose grains

Bored with rice? Fed up with noodles? We check out some of the alternatives.

Because most of these are whole grains and seeds they contain more protein, fibre and vitamins than the more processed white rice or noodles, so they’re filling and good for you.

What is it? Pronounced ‘keen-wa’ this seed from South America is more commonly available in white, but we like the red variety for its nutty texture and flavour.

How to cook it? By absorption: add 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water (or stock) and simmer (lid off) for 15 minutes or more until water is absorbed. Alternatively, boil quinoa like pasta in a pot of water and once cooked, drain through a fine sieve. One cup uncooked makes 2 1/4 cups cooked.

Is it gluten-free? Yes.

What is it? Also known as cornmeal, polenta is the Italian name for coarsely ground corn.

How to cook it? For creamy polenta, add 1 cup polenta to 4 cups boiling water or stock. Reduce heat and stir for several minutes. Cover and simmer gently for 45 minutes. Stir every 10 minutes. One cup uncooked makes 3 1/4 cups cooked. Creamy polenta can be cooled and shaped into balls or placed on a tray to set and cut in squares or triangles.

Is it gluten-free? Yes

What is it? Par-boiled wheat, dried then cracked to remove bran and germ. Available in different sizes, coarse bulgar wheat is most commonly available. Also known as bulgur or bulghur wheat.

How to cook it? Like couscous, to prepare bulgar wheat is super-quick and super-easy. Soak in boiling water for 10 minutes then drain any excess water. One cup uncooked makes 2 cups cooked.

Is it gluten-free? No.

What is it? In Italy, the term farro is reserved for three hulled wheat species, namely einkorn (farro piccolo or small farro), emmer (farro medio or medium farro) and spelt (farro grande or large farro). Farro perlato is pearled farro where part of the outer bran has been removed.

How to cook it? Soak for 15 minutes then add to boiling water and simmer for about 10 minutes. One cup uncooked makes 1 1/2 cups cooked.

Is it gluten-free? No.

What is it? Despite the name, this is actually a seed unrelated to wheat. The seeds within buckwheat kernels, once hulled, are called groats.

How to cook it? Simmer in a pot of water for about 5 minutes then drain. One cup uncooked makes 2 cups cooked.

Is it gluten-free? Yes.

What is it? Tiny pre-cooked pasta made from whole durum wheat semolina.

How to cook it? Pour 1 cup boiling water or liquid stock over 1 cup couscous. Cover for 2-3 minutes then fluff up with a fork. One cup uncooked makes 3 cups cooked.

Is it gluten-free? No.

What is it? Small round seeds from several different grasses are all known as millet.

How to cook it? Add 1 cup millet to 2 1/4 cups boiling water and simmer for about 10 minutes. One cup uncooked makes 2½ cups cooked.

Is it gluten-free? Yes.

What is it? This mix contains white quinoa, red quinoa, black quinoa and amaranth.

How to cook it? Add 1 cup super grain mix to 2 cups water (or stock) and simmer (lid off) for 15 minutes or more until water is absorbed. One cup uncooked makes 2 1/2 cups cooked.

Is it gluten-free? Yes, but the pack warns this is processed on equipment that also handles tree nuts, sesame and gluten.

  • Use in place of potatoes, rice or pasta: quinoa, bulgar wheat, wholewheat couscous, creamy polenta, millet, buckwheat.
  • Use in salads and savoury side dishes: quinoa, bulgar wheat, wholewheat couscous, millet, buckwheat.
  • Firm polenta slices can be grilled and used as a carbohydrate side or eaten with a savoury topping.
  • Add to soups and casseroles: millet, buckwheat (near the end of cooking).
First published: Nov 2011



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