a bowl full of grains with chopped herbs and salad leaves

By Phillippa Spence

Like many people, I find I can eat mounds of white rice and pasta when given the opportunity – and I only feel full when I’ve really over indulged. But swapping these for a heftier grain or brown variety fills you up much more effectively. It means you might reduce your portion amount and actually feel like you’re getting the right type of carbohydrate.

Sure they might look a little frumpy and boring, staring at you from their clear plastic bag, but there are loads of grains to choose from that you can cook, dress and enjoy in less than 30 minutes. They’re good for the heart, full of slow-burning energy and fill you up. What’s more is they’re great value for money!

I love using grains in warm salads, bulgar wheat, farro and brown rice are a particular favourite because they suck up lots of flavour from zingy dressings and can help bulk out a salad and give it a bit of body.

For a really quick side or light meal, cook your brown rice or bulgar wheat according to the packet instructions, then toss it with a simple fresh orange and olive oil dressing and lots of chopped herbs like mint and parsley. Pair the dressed wheat or rice with spicy roasted butternut squash, sweet potato or sweet peppers, or toss with some finely chopped raw broccoli and salad leaves and serve with a roast chicken. Jamie has some lovely wholegrain recipes too – try his delicious summer four-grain salad with garlic, lemon and herbs or try quinoa as part of this recipe for a South American-style brunch with tomatoes, avocadoes, lots of coriander and a cheeky fried egg.  

Pearled spelt and barley are higher in protein and work beautifully as a substitute for rice in risotto. Another easy way to use these grains is to throw a handful into soups and stews. Sadly they don’t have all the benefits of wholegrain because the outer layer of bran has been stripped from them, but this makes them quicker to cook (25 – 40 minutes) as opposed to hours for the wholegrain variety.

It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, try using more grains and you’ll feel the benefits. And we’re always open to new ideas, whether its salads or pie fillings, so share your recipes and ideas for using grains below.

About the author

Pip Spence

Pip is a junior stylist in Jamie’s food team. She spends her life following Jamie around, testing his recipes and helping out on shoots. She is addicted to Instagram (@pipparoo_spence), fascinated by food history, and obsessed with homemade ice cream. Mostly she writes about store cupboard heroes, using up leftovers and hearty comfort food.

Pip Spence