Shall we ‘Go with the Grain’?

(May 25th, 2016) Porridge with milk – and a look of displeasure – this is how many of our childhood mornings looked like. However, a new science-backed cookbook shows that oats and barley can be both healthy and delicious alternatives to rice or pasta.

Why do our parents feed us porridge, or why did even primitive people crush oat grains to make them edible? The history of oat use as food and its health benefits have been well researched and are supported by yet another recent study. Maria de Angelis and her team at the University of Bari, Italy, showed that a diet providing 3g of β-glucan a day can significantly decrease the blood levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol. This quantity of β-glucan can be found in as little as 100g of oats.

However, oats and barley are not exactly main ingredients of everyday meals; often they are restricted to only a handful of dishes. But it doesn’t have to be so, thought nutritional microbiologist, Karen Scott, at the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health (RINH), Aberdeen, Scotland. Together with her team, she developed recipes that substitute carbohydrate-rich with fibre-rich ingredients to make delicious meals for any occasion. The need for such a ‘Go with the Grain’ book is not even questioned, as an increasingly higher percentage of (not only) the Western population becomes obese or is diagnosed with diabetes, often because of bad food choices.

“When we were doing our recent human study investigating the effects of increased intake of oats and barley on gut and heart health, we realised that it was actually quite difficult to include sufficient quantities in the daily diet, going beyond the standard fare of Scotch broth and porridge,” Scott relates. “Thus, the staff in the human nutrition unit at RINH developed some new recipes incorporating oats and barley in common dishes, perhaps replacing rice and other carbohydrate sources. To supplement these, we also collected additional existing recipes. Once we had completed the human study, we realised that the volunteers had liked some of the recipes so much that it would be helpful to make them available to everyone – and the idea of the recipe book and recipe cards became reality.” This is one way how society benefits from basic research!

To get your mouth watering, here’s the recipe for Moroccan-style Spiced Lamb and Barley Couscous:

1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
250g lamb steak, diced
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon chilli powder
80g green beans
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
80g butternut squash, chopped
1 teaspoon dried coriander leaves
6 dried apricots
Pinch of ground black pepper
½ a beef or lamb stock cube
100g barley couscous
150ml water
200g water
4 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 tablespoon of olive oil

Method of preparation:
1. Heat the oil and fry the lamb and onions for 2 minutes
2. Stir in all the herbs and spices, garlic and pepper
3. Add the tomatoes, butternut squash and beef stock and simmer for 25 minutes.
4. Add the green beans, lemon juice and apricots, then simmer for another 10 minutes.
5. Make up the couscous as per the instructions on the pack
6. Serve together

Bon appetit! Ith do shàth!

The cookbook is available free to download from the RINH website. A printed copy can also be ordered upon request.

Nadejda Capatina

Photo: RINH cookbook

Last Changes: 07.12.2016