Rice, potatoes and pasta are all good sources of complex carbohydrates and ideal ingredients upon which to build a meal. But sometimes it is nice to try something different, and there are plenty of other grains and cereals with which to experiment.
To many people, barley is some thing which is used to make beer, or at best, an ingredient in thick soups such as Scotch broth. But barley does not have to be confined to the soup pot. These days, a quick-cooking barley has been produced which can be used in much the same way as rice, and which can be substituted weight for weight for rice in many recipes. The grains are slightly chewy, though not as chewy as brown rice, with a distinctive but subtle flavor.
Whole wheat grain, also sometimes known as wheat rice, can also be substituted for rice in some recipes, while cracked wheat can be soaked and cooked as an accompaniment for meat or vegetable dishes. Try your local health food shop if you cannot find it in the larger supermarkets.
Even millet, now regarded primarily as a bird seed, can be cooked and served as a rice alternative. In fact, in ancient times millet was the staple cereal in Europe, and was the main cereal eaten in China before the advent of rice. It can be included in soups and stews or mixed with legumes such as dried beans and peas.
Cornmeal, or ground maize kernels, is marketed as polenta and is a staple food in northern Italy. Polenta is a kind of thick porridge which can be served as a puree or which can be left to set in a baking dish then sliced. Most cornmeal sold in this country tends to be of the yellow variety, which contains much higher levels of beta carotene than white cornmeal.
Couscous looks very much like a grain but is really a type of pasta, originally from Morocco, which is made from durum wheat. Precooked varieties are available.
Wholewheat Fruit Salad
Drains the soaked whole wheat and cook in boiling water for 20 minutes, then rinse under cold water and drain well. Cool. Core the apple and pear and slice thinly. Sprinkle with lemon juice to prevent browning and combine with whole wheat, grapes, celery and dried fruit in a large salad bowl. Sprinkle with cubed cheese.
Put dressing ingredients in screw top jar and shake until combined. Pour over salad and serve.
Heat the oil in a large fry pan and seal the chicken briefly on all sides. Set chicken aside. Fry the chopped onion, crushed garlic, diced tomato and diced capsicum for five minutes. Add the barley and the turmeric and stir fry for 2 minutes.
Add the stock, bring mixture to the boil, add the chicken, cover, and cook over a lowish heat for 20 minutes. Add the paprika and peas and cook for a further 10 minutes, without stirring, until all the liquid has been absorbed and the barley is cooked. Add prawns and heat for 2 minutes. Serve.
Polenta and Sour Cream Bread
Combine sour cream, eggs, creamed corn, oil and chives in a large bowl and mix well. Add polenta, flour, baking powder and cheeses and mix until smooth. Pour into a greased, floured and paper-lined 20cm cake tin and bake at 180°C for between 40 and 50 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.