There is no official definition of ‘ancient grains’ and nearly all whole grains are ‘ancient’ as we can trace their roots back 10,000 years ago! They can however be loosely defined as grains that are largely unchanged since the beginning of time. This means that the constantly evolving and modified modern wheat is no longer an ancient grain, while the original heirloom variety would be considered ancient (exciting stuff right?).
Though ancient grains like amaranth, khorasan, teff and sorghum may be new to many of us, they have actually been around for centuries and widely used outside of the western part of the world. Compared to modern grains, cooking with ancient grains offer many health benefits and are also cultivated with lower levels of pesticides and fertilisers. They have more nutrients and protein, which is great for all the veggies and vegans out there who need quality plant protein sources! Many of these heritage grains also contain more fibre and can be a richer source of vitamins and minerals. Plus, many of them are gluten-free making them a great alternative for people who are gluten intolerant or sensitive.
On Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch, Maple & Fitz chefs Jodi and Adria have prepared 4 delicious but nutritious dishes using ancient grains: a teff breakfast, khorasan wheat lunch, amaranth dinner and sorghum snack. To purchase these grains, go to your local healthy store like Planet Organic of Whole Foods Market, otherwise you can find them online as well.
Breakfast – Teff Chia Crepe (gf, df, ve)
- 150g raw cashew, reserve 6 nuts for garnish
- 40g dried apricots, reserve 3 few for garnish
- 3 tbsp raw cacao powder
- 1 L water
- 2 eggs
- 375ml semi-skimmed milk (or almond/ coconut for dairy-free)
- 100g teff flour
- 5g chia seeds
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp coconut oil
- mint leaves (optional for garnish)
- Soak cashews and apricots in water (min 4 hours). Drain and blend in hand blender or food processor until creamy like a nut butter (add a 1-3 tbsp of water if too thick).
- Beat eggs then add milk and whisk until even. Slowly sieve teff flour into egg-milk mixture whisking to ensure no lumps are formed. Add salt and chia seeds and mix well.
- Heat a 30cm non-stick skillet over medium with 1 tbsp coconut oil. Add 1 large ladle of batter and swirl to completely cover bottom of skillet. Cook until underside of crepe is golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes and flip with a spatula and cook for 2 minutes more. Repeat for remaining crepes.
- Serve crepes warm with a cashew cream, cashews, apricots and mint.
Lunch – Kamut Mexican Salad (df, ve)
- 180g Khorasan wheat
- 180g black beans
- 250g cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 60g red onion, halved, thinly sliced
- 1 bell pepper (green or yellow), cube
- 1 avocado, cube
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 50g coriander, stems and leaves
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 lime, zest and juiced
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 ground black pepper
- 1 pinch chili flakes
- sea salt & black pepper to taste
- Soak Khorasan wheat and beans overnight (min 8 hours). Drain and rinse.
- Cook wheat in large pot with plenty of water and salt for 1 hour and cook black beans in large pot with plenty of water and salt for 20 mins. When cooked, drain and mix black beans and wheat.
- Make the dressing by combining all ingredients with a hand blender or food processor.
- Prepare all the other vegetables.
- Toss all the ingredients together with the dressing and serve with avocado and chili flakes as garnish.
Dinner – Amaranth White Chili Soup (gf, df/ ve optional)
- 300g of any dried white beans e.g. butter, broad, haricot, cannellini or pinto
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium sized onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, diced
- 1 tbsp oregano
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 cumin
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 100g amaranth
- 1-2 green chilis (1 is enough for some heat)
- 30g fresh tarragon
- 30g grated parmesan (optional)
- Soak beans overnight (min 4 hours).
- In a large pot, heat olive oil on medium and sauté onions for 3 mins then garlic and chilis for another 2 mins. Add oregano and spices along with drained beans and cook stirring for 10 minutes. Add water and amaranth and simmer for 30 mins.
- Serve with freshly chopped tarragon, pickled onions, grated parmesan (optional) and more green chili (if you dare!)
Snack – Sorghum Popcorn (gf, df, ve)
- 500g sorghum
- 5 tbsp olive or avocado oil
- 1-2 tbsp maple syrup
- a few pinches of sea salt (or other spices e.g. chilli, cinnamon)
- Heat a large pot on medium high heat. Add 100g of the sorghum and stir for 1 min. Then add 1 tbsp of oil and shake until popping starts. As soon as popping starts turn down heat to low. Take off heat when popping slows down to one pop every 5 seconds. Toss in maple syrup then sprinkle with salt.
- Sorghum unlike corn can be eaten even if it’s not popped. Sorghum yields a lot less popped grains than corn.