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June 18, 2012 at 2:45 PMComments: 1 Faves: 0

Eat Like an Egyptian: 7 Ancient Grain Recipes

By Sue More Blogs by This Author

As of late, there's been a lot of buzz over ancient grains. Though they almost sound like something you would find in a museum or archeological dig, ancient grains are on the palette of many a chef looking for ingredients to set themselves apart from the pack. Chefs enjoy the challenge of working with ingredients that rare and hard to come by and that will offer a whole new flavor experience.

Grains of the Pharaohs

Though ancient grains like quinoa, spelt, and farro may be new to many of us, they have actually been around for centuries. As a matter of fact, farro was eaten on a daily basis by ancient Egyptians and has even been found stored the tombs of pharaohs.

These grains faded in popularity as their hybrid cousins produced higher yields and higher profits. But, while the wheat and corn that we all know looks and tastes nothing like its distant ancestors, ancient grains are virtually unchanged from what they where thousands of years ago.

They really are worth the trouble of seeking them out. The flavor is hardy, whole, and delicious - sort of nutty and chewy. Besides - it's kind of cool to think I’m eating something right now that the pharaohs or Julius Caesar may have eaten, and that it tastes exactly the same!

The Health Benefits of Ancient Grains

Another reason for their recent gain in popularity is the upsurge in wheat allergies like celiac disease. Many of these grains are gluten free and provide a tasty alternative to products made with wheat flour.

There are other health benefits as well. Although each grain has its own individual sets of health benefits, these grains generally are higher in fiber and protein than most modern day grains.

Where to Find Ancient Grains

Okay. I know what you're thinking - "That’s great, Sue, but where in the world do I get my hands on these ingredients?!"

You may be surprised - many grocery are catching on to this trend as and providing ancient grains in their ethnic foods section. However, if your market of choice doesn't, there are several online stores offering a variety of ancient grains and heirloom seeds. Shipping is minimal and they will keep for long periods of time. Here are a few sites that I found offering ancient grains and other heirloom products:

RECIPES: Cooking with Ancient Grains

Now for the fun part! Here are several Ancient Grain recipes I have put together.

Freekeh: Pomegranate Glazed Freekeh Kofte

"Otherwise known as meatballs, except, of course, no meat. The coarse texture of the grain helps the kofte stay loosely bound, instead of becoming overly dense. I went with ras al hanout and a glaze of pomegranate molasses to stick with a Middle Eastern flavor profile. There were none leftover immediately following the photograph." Recipe HERE!

Quinoa: Green Veggie Salad with Crunchy Quinoa

"Yesterday I was craving something starchy and filling and quinoa sounded like the perfect fit to satisfy my craving.  I spruced it up by adding some green veggies and spices to make a well rounded, healthy and satisfying meal." Recipe HERE!

Amaranth: Crispy Amaranth + Ricotta Pancakes with Corn and Scallions

"once all of those attempts were successful, i pulled out the big guns.  i thought, why not be adventurous and give it a real go.  so i fried something with it.  three farmers website touted the oil's ability to cook in a moderately high heat, so it really was a true test.  did it work, you ask? why yes it did!" Recipe HERE!

Farro: Creamy Farro Risotto with Mushrooms

"Farro is chewier than Italian rice and doesn’t release starch when it’s cooked, so there’s no need to stir it the way you’d stir a risotto. This hearty dish has a rich, earthy flavor. Although it takes about twice as long as a risotto to cook, it doesn’t require tending." Recipe HERE!

Teff: Ethiopian Injera Flatbread

"Injera is a yeast-risen flatbread with a unique, slightly spongy texture. It is a national dish in Ethiopia and Eritrea. It usually should be made with all Teff flour or mixed with sorghum or other flours...I loaded it with potato tomato curry and rice pilaf for the pictures. :D I did not have any Wats, so used whatever food I had in the pictures. Indian curries also go very well with the Injera, so its really a win win." Recipe HERE!

Spelt: Carrot Cranberry Spelt Berry Salad

"This nutrition-packed salad makes a superb side dish. Spelt berries are a chewy whole grain that can be found in many bulk aisles." Recipe HERE!

Chia: Chocolate Raspberry Chia Pudding

"Would you believe me if I told you that this dessert is very easy to make and requires no cooking? No messing around in the kitchen -  just a little bit of blending and stirring, put it in the fridge and it’s done. Only 4 ingredients needed." Recipe HERE!

Photo Credit: Jon Norton

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1 Comment

  • I've never tried cooking with spelt or farro, but you've inspired me, Sue!

    As someone that loves funky texture foods, quinoa is right up my alley. It's like eating hollow cous cous. The tiny grains pop a little when you chew them. Like rice, they don't actually have much of a flavor on their own, but then they lend themselves well to a variety of flavors.

    The first recipe I tried with quinoa was imitating a package a got with spices already in them - dried onion, almond slices and golden raisins - reminded me a lot of stuffing! After that, I've made it like a pasta salad, my favorite mix including basil, tomato, garlic, vinaigrette and balsamic glaze - that's my daughter's favorite. The last way I had it was at a friend's home - she found a recipe for it using parsley, goat cheese and pomegranite seeds that was just out-of-this-world good! For anyone who hasn't tried it yet- I high recommend you do!

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