I am usually a bit dubious about such specialised cookbooks – how can a book be interesting and varied while focusing so narrowly on one type of food, and a potentially boring one at that? But I’m a big fan of grains, so I put my prejudices aside for this collection.
I need not have worried that it would be boring – all 90 recipes are quite different, and as well as being good to look at (check out the ‘look-insides’ on the Phaidon website), I have flagged a decent number of recipes to try. A rainy, blustery weekend and Saturday night rugby on TV called for something hearty to warm our souls as we watched a soggy All Black team lose to the Lions; the Quinoa and Buckwheat with Chorizo, Tomato and Watercress was just the thing. I’ve mentioned before my relaxed attitude to following recipes, and for this one I used barley instead of quinoa and buckwheat and fresh baby rocket from the garden instead of watercress. I also cooked the barley in with the rest of it rather than separately, creating a flavoursome, substantial one-pot meal, and played fast and loose with the quantities, meaning the stated two serves was actually four: dinner and lunch the next day for two.
I have flagged the Black Rice Chicken Congee, Barley with Slow-Cooked Beef Ragu, Oats and Millet with Mango, Figs and Lime and Buckwheat and Oats with Sesame, Puffed Amaranth, Blackberries and Clotted Cream among other recipes to try next, and will be buying a copy of this book. (This has become my new test of a book actually. If I borrow it from the library and don’t want to give it back, it’s worth buying.)
The book begins by looking at the ways cultures around the world incorporate grains into their cuisines and some of the advantages of doing so (but with more of an emphasis on the enjoyment of them, rather than the more pointy-headed nutritional stuff, which it does touch on), and also gives a cooking guide. At the back it has a glossary for those new to grains and a supplier list for the US, the UK and Australia.
The Grain Bowl by Nik Williamson (Phaidon, 2016)