Cooking With Grains

Grains are the seeds of grasses, the traditional examples being rice, wheat, barley, oats, maize (corn) and millet. It is no exaggeration to say that these foods have played a critical part in the development of human civilizations across the globe. In conjunction with beans grains provide all the amino acids needed for proper nutrition. As a result, people can live on a mix of grains and beans alone. This makes agriculture and complex civilizations possible and it’s why so many early civilizations have risen to prominence on this diet. Take for example, the Maya of South America (corn and beans), the Egyptians (wheat and beans or lentils), the Celts (wheat or oats and broad [fava] beans) and China (rice and beans), even the Kingdom of Benin, West Africa (millet and beans).

Even today, our basic staples are grain-based (bread, rice, porridges an breakfast cereals) and we would find life very difficult without these products. Then, of course, flour made form these grains is turned into cakes, pies, pasties and all kinds of confections.

Below you will find two classic recipes, the first for a traditional bean and bulgur (cracked) wheat pilaf and the second for a more modern version of sweetcorn barbecued in its own husk with horseradish butter.

Bean and Bulgur Wheat Pilaf


2 tbsp butter

1 small onion, chopped

1/8 tsp salt

1/8 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp thyme

140g bulgur wheat

420ml water

60ml soy sauce (or tamari soy sauce)

salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

100g black-eyed peas, cooked and drained

2 tbsp carrots, grated

2 tbsp celery, chopped

1 tbsp raisins, chopped (optional)

2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped


Heat the oil in a pan and use to fry the onion for about 3 minutes before adding the thyme and turmeric. Fry for 1 minute more then sir-in the bulgur wheat and fry, stirring continuously, for 3 minutes more. Stir in the water and soy sauce then season with salt and black pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer, cover and cook for about 25 minutes, or until the bulgur wheat is almost soft.

Stir-in the black-eyed peas, celery and carrot then cover the pot tightly, take off the heat and allow to steam for 5 minutes. When ready, stir in the raisins and parsley then serve.

Barbecued Corn with Horseradish Butter


100g butter, softened

3 tbsp creamed horseradish

8 ears of corn, with husks


In a bowl, beat together the butter and horseradish until smooth then set half aside. Place the remainder in a sheet of clingfilm (plastic wrap) and shape into a log. Transfer to the refrigerator to solidify.

Carefully peel back the corn husks to within about 3cm of the base of the cob. Discard the silks then rub the ears of corn evenly with the butter mixture (the half you set aside). Re-wrap the corn husks about the cobs and tie at the top with kitchen string. Soak, covered, in cold water for about 20 minutes.

Pre-heat your barbecue then add the corn ears and cook about 12cm above the heat surface. Cook for about 15 minutes, turning occasionally. Take off the heat then slice the chilled butter into rings and serve with the corn.

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