How To: Grains

Serves 4-6 8 April 2020 Dairy Free Gluten Free Vegetarian Friendly
The edible equivalent of your favourite pair of jeans, grains are our basic carbohydrate for any meal - perfect either simply on their own or accessorised with any of the infinite options of flavour (eg. vinegar or lemon), texture (eg. toasted nuts or seeds) or shots of colour (eg.chopped herbs, roasted veg) for razzmatazz.

For those who have been following along here for a while or attended any of my classes or demos, you will know that grains are an intrinsic part and a secret weapon of meal planning ease. For those who are new here, welcome to our world of grain adoration. 

Grains are the simple answer to the nourishing carb conundrum. Used here daily either as a side, a main, to beef up a salad, or even toasting the leftovers for added crunch to a dish. You will always find a bowl of plain cooked grains somewhere in the fridge on hand ready to use as a base for any emergency quick fix meal. 

To eliminate whole swathes of cooking stress from life, we cook all of our grains in the same way, for the same length of time. Freekeh, spelt, barley, quinoa, farro and all flavours of rice are all cooked using the absorption method. The simple 2:1 ratio of water to uncooked grain in a shallow sauté pan with a tight fitting lid ensures fluffy nutty grains every time. 

There is only one BUT here……YOU HAVE TO TRUST THE PROCESS….do NOT (not ever) lift the lid even just to peek, during cooking. This will ruin the absorption method. The beauty here? Once you have mastered the no peek absorption method, you only have to think once for infinite meal variations. 

A few tips on cooking grains:

Use a 20 or 30cm wide heavy bottomed sauté pan with a tight fitting lid. This is also ideal for serving. 

Make sure you salt the water to ensure the grains hold their shape and for maximum flavour. It will be very difficult to recover this after cooking and you will end up with bland but over salted bowl of mushy particles.

NEVER LIFT THE LID DURING COOKING. This will completely disturb the cooking process. You just have to trust that it works by listening to make sure there is no more bubbling water and smelling the nutty goodness telling you they are cooked. Some whole grains (eg whole spelt as opposed to pearl spelt) may not fully absorb the water but they will still be fully cooked after 20 minutes plus rest time, you might just have to drain some of the water at the end. 

If you want to add a little acid tang to your grains, do it when they are warm rather than cooled fully as they absorb the flavour much better as soon as they have had a little rest once the heat is off. That is your moment to add a little vinegar or lemon. 

Grains are happy hanging around before serving and always delicious at room temperature. We often make them an hour or two before sitting down and leave them happily resting until just before serving when we dress and go.

Cooked undressed grains will sit in the fridge for 4 days ready for any meal.

Step 1

  • Always rinse your grains. This is crucial to get rid of any residue and allow the water to absorb. 
  • Rinse 300g grains of your choice under cold running water until it runs clear

Step 2

  • Place in a heavy bottomed sauté pan with a tight fitting lid and cover with 600ml of cold water or vegetable stock.
  • Add a good pinch of salt, a bay leaf (if you have one to hand).
  • Bring to the boil on a high heat, stir through once and cover with the lid.
  • Turn down the heat to the lowest possible setting and allow to cook for 20 minutes. 

Step 3

  • Turn off the heat. DO NOT PEEK.
  • Allow to sit for 10 minutes (or longer) to rest. Remove the lid, fluff with a fork and season as desired. 

So, now you have mastered the cooking of your grains, here’s one idea to dress them : a super tasty roasted spring onion (scallion) dressing? Just roast them quickly while the grains cool, blitz and stir…..

Turn Your Grains Green……..

  • 2 bunches spring onions/scallions (approximately 16)
  • 60ml olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • Juice of 1 lemon (2-3 tbsp juice)
  • 1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley 
  • Preheat oven to 200C (400F)
  • Keep the majority of the dark green ends in tact, trim the ends of the spring onion tops and the white bottom ends (if necessary)
  • Place on a small roasting tray or oven safe dish and drizzle with about half a tablespoon of the olive oil, reserving the rest for later. Sprinkle with a good pinch of salt, pepper and stir everything together to coat.
  • Roast for 12-15 minutes, turning every 5 minutes or so to ensure even browning and not charred ends.
  • When they are cooked, remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly. 
  • Either chop by hand or in the small bowl of a food processor, stirring in the remaining olive oil, lemon juice and chopped parsley. 
  • Season with salt and pepper and add a little more lemon juice if necessary.
  • Stir through the warm grains and serve either warm or at room temperature. 

LITTLE NOTE: For all of you celebrating an unusual lockdown Passover tonight, I wish you well. I also hope that cooking your quinoa and rice using this method will bring some meal prep ease for the week.

Have you made this dish?

Let me know what you think, share your efforts and any tweaks you made to the recipe on Instagram, don’t forget to tag #BuildingFeasts or email me on