Grab yourself a fork and let's tuck in to the delicious and nutritious Bulgur and Fig Salad on the cover of Ancient Grains: Whole-food Recipes for the Modern Table. This image sets the scene for the contents of the latest book from Australia's leading nutritionist and best-selling author, Catherine Saxelby, who enjoys great food and is keen to overturn the notion that grains can be bland and old-fashioned by revealing that cooking with ancient grains can offer a rich palette of flavourful meals.
Ancient grains include amaranth, oats, quinoa, teff (an ancient African grain), buckwheat, barley, rice, millet, rye, chia, sorghum, ancient wheat and wheat products such as bulgur and couscous, together with corn or maize, and wild rice. In this interview on ABC RN Life Matters, Catherine speaks with Natasha Mitchell and says that ancient grains have been overlooked by modern farmers and agriculturalists and are only just being discovered. The distinction being that many less processed grains, such as millet, quinoa, wild rice and chia, are gluten free and are therefore perfect for people who suffer irritable bowel syndrome (although curiously, and to my great disappointment, quinoa bothers my own digestive system).
Catherine explains that consuming whole grains regularly can improve digestion, assist with weight management, and reduce the risk of developing many chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. 'It is well known that processed foods, such as refined wheat and white rice, lack the nutritional goodness of whole grain food, but people have been confused about what grains to buy, and how to cook and incorporate them into their everyday foods,' Catherine says. 'Ancient Grains demystifies this and will show you how to incorporate grains into familiar recipes in easy and delicious ways.'
In the foreword, Professor Manny Noakes, a senior research scientist with the CSIRO and co-author of the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet series, points out that 'among the benefits of eating whole grains that seems most appealing is the evidence that they actively assist in weight management. More particularly, whole grains seem to help with fat loss from the abdominal ("tummy") region [ok, I'm listening...] ... although it is not yet know exactly why this may be the case.' Ms Noakes says she loves that idea that the food we eat has a unique story, and delving into the history of the food choices of our ancestors adds another dimension to preparing, eating and appreciating great-tasting wholesome food.
Chapters in Ancient Grains outline what constitutes whole grain; then there's a comprehensive guide to the different grains, where they come from, what they’re good for, how they’re good for you (nutrient content), and how to prepare and use them; as well as a guide to the to the varieties of each grain, including their basic taste, texture, preparation and uses. Best of all are the recipes. The book offers more than 100 contemporary, interesting and quite mouthwatering recipes for breakfast and brunch, breads and baked goods, soups and starters, mains, side dishes and salads, as well as some yummy desserts (!) such as a chocolate almond bar cookie slice, and the lemon crepe torte made with Kamut® flour. There are dishes for vegans, vegetarians, meat-lovers and followers of gluten-free or low GI diets. However, I feel that Ancient Grains offers something for everyone who enjoys good, nourishing food, and from my perspective succeeds in making ancient and whole grains things we want to eat, not things we think we should eat.
Ancient Grains: Whole-food Recipes for the Modern Table by Catherine Saxelby with contributors Chrissy Freer, Anna Phillips, Tracy Rutherford, $34.99, Arbon Publishing. Thank you to my friend and colleague, Catherine Saxelby (and Arbon Publishing) for giving me the opportunity to review this title.
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