Whole grains have enjoyed a resurgence in recent years. This group of foods includes cereal grains such as brown rice, spelt and whole barley. The highly nutritious “pseudo” grains quinoa, millet and buckwheat are also included, but as they are actually seeds they are even higher in protein and minerals than cereal grains.
Similar to beans and legumes, soaking whole grains makes them easier to digest and the nutrients more available. Grains in their whole form contain more fibre and nutrients than refined grains (white rice, white flour). However, if whole grains are not prepared properly, some of the nutrients can remain trapped. This is nature’s protective mechanism to prevent grains and seeds sprouting before conditions are right.
Sourdough is one example of grain preparation that is still used extensively. Another is overnight soaked bircher muesli.
Planning ahead and soaking whole grains will not only improve their digestion and increase the nutrient load, but they will also cook faster. The resulting grain will have a perfectly chewy texture due to the even absorption of moisture.
The acid component – vinegar, whey or lemon juice – added to the soaking water helps pre-digest and soften the grain prior to cooking.
To add flavour and extra nutrients, cook the whole grains in homemade stock.
Perfectly Cooked Whole Grains
1 cup millet, quinoa or buckwheat
3 cups warm water (about 45˚C) for soaking
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar, lemon juice or whey
1¾ cups boiling water or homemade stock
1 tsp butter or coconut oil
Combine grain, warm water and acid component in a large jar and secure the lid. Place in a warm place for 8-12 hours.
When ready, drain and rinse grain. Place in a saucepan with boiling water or stock. Add ½ teaspoon salt, cover and bring to a boil. Simmer for 12-15 minutes then set aside, covered, for 10 minutes. Add butter or coconut oil and fluff with a fork.
- “Pseudo” grains – such as quinoa, millet and buckwheat – contain higher levels of proteins and minerals than cereal grains which include oats, rice and wheat. Whole grains and seeds need to be prepared by soaking, sprouting, fermenting or long cooking so they are easier to digest and to release their full load of nutrients.
- Millet is a gluten-free grain originating from Africa. It is highly nutritious and particularly valued for its alkalising properties. Adding an acid component at the soaking stage helps pre-digest and soften the grain ahead of cooking. Millet is similar in texture to couscous, so makes an excellent gluten-free alternative for pilafs. Buy hulled millet at bulk bin and organic stores.
- Combine 1 cup of grain with approximately 3 cups of warm water (around 45˚C) and 1 tablespoon acid component – apple cider vinegar, lemon juice or cultured whey – in a large jar and secure the lid. The closed jar will hold the heat. Set aside in a warm place for 8-12 hours.
- Once the soaking stage is complete, drain millet in a sieve and rinse thoroughly, then drain again. Keeping the millet in the sieve, set it over a bowl to drain excess liquid ahead of cooking. Soaking the grains makes them cook faster and – because they’ve absorbed moisture evenly – gives them a perfect chewy texture.
- To cook, combine soaked grains in a heavy- based saucepan with 1¾ cups boiling water or hot stock and ½ teaspoon salt. For unsoaked grains, use 2 cups cold water. Cover with a tight- fitting lid and bring to the boil, then simmer for 12-15 minutes (15-18 minutes for unsoaked) until tunnels appear. Set aside to steam, covered, for 10 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon butter and fluff with a fork.