Affordable, nutrient-dense, and long-lasting, whole grains are incredibly useful in everyday cooking. Whether simmered in a stew, toasted and sprinkled on a salad, or served as an accompaniment to a main dish, grains do an excellent job of absorbing flavours while providing substance and nutrition. Read on for some of our favourite grain-based dishes, including a comforting pearl barley risotto and a Chinese-inspired fried quinoa dish.
A classic Middle Eastern comfort dish, mejadra is a vegan-friendly mix of lentils, grains, and spices, topped with irresistibly crispy fried onions. This recipe from Ottolenghi collaborators Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley uses bulgur wheat, but you also use freekeh or rice.
Amaranth, quinoa, and freekeh bring a robust texture, a comfortingly earthy flavour, and a whole load of nutrients to this rich tomato soup.
Get your copy of Souping here.
“Pölsa” is a northern Swedish dish much like risotto, but made with pearl barley rather than rice. In this version from Rachel Khoo, mushrooms are added to the recipe, but the dish would also be excellent topped with a crispy fried egg.
Get your copy of The Little Swedish Kitchen here.
An ideal way of using up any leftover cooked quinoa, this spicy, flavour-packed dish from Melissa Hemsley requires just a few minutes of prep, and is great alternative to takeaway.
Get your copy of Eat Happy: 30 Minute Feel-good Food here.
A simple, rustic salad, this recipe from Claudia Roden is ideal as a fresh-tasting lunch that will keep you going all afternoon.
Get your copy of Arabesque here.
Quinoa and Chia Bread from Naturally Sassy: My recipes for an energised, healthy and happy you by Saskia Gregson-Williams
A gluten-free loaf, made with quinoa and chia and enriched with honey, lemon, and seeds. There's no yeast involved, so it couldn't be easier to make, and it freezes well too – just slice it, bag it, and store in the freezer for toasting at a later date.
Get your copy of Naturally Sassy here.
This flavourful one-tin recipe from Rukmini Iyer requires minimal effort – just toss everything in the tin and let the oven do the work! Pearl barley would work equally well, in place of spelt, and if you don't have fresh spinach try using frozen or adding some cauliflower along with the sweet potatoes.
Get your copy of The Roasting Tin here.
If you're looking for a crowd pleaser look no further – this rich tomato and barley risotto topped with marinated feta will be a hit with the whole family. Feel free to use dried thyme, rather than fresh, and to omit the fresh oregano if necessary – it will still taste great!
Get your copy of Jerusalem here.
This tasty 5-ingredient recipe is a great template, and can be easily adapted to suit the contents of your fridge and store cupboard. Instead of black quinoa, you could use any other cooked grain, and instead of broccolini, you could use regular broccoli (fresh or frozen), tenderstem broccoli, or asparagus. Meanwhile the nuts can be switched out for goats cheese, parmesan, mozzarella, or crispy fried bacon.
Beef and Guinness Stew with English Mustard and Pearl Barley from Super Food Family Classics by Jamie Oliver
Pearl barley makes a great addition to most soups and stews – it bulks them up, absorbs flavour, and adds texture. This beef stew from Jamie Oliver uses lean skirt steak, braised slowly until it's melt-in-the-mouth tender. It's a hearty and comforting dish, and one that could easily be portioned up and stored in the freezer.
Get your copy of Super Food Family Classics here.
Quinoa porridge is an excellent alternative to traditional oat porridge, and will provide you with an extra protein boost at breakfast. This recipe is a great base for any toppings you might want to add, including nuts, fruits, and even chocolate chips.
Get your copy of At My Table here.