Quick Guide to Including Grains in a Halal Diet
There’s no questioning our love of white rice. But grains are tasty & frugal substitutes in many halal dishes, and their use can greatly improve our health.
Cooking most grains is similar to cooking rice: easy. And, they’re cheap. The majority of health experts agree we should eat grains everyday. As well as being a good source of fibre, whole grains lower cholesterol and can even prevent heart attacks and strokes. They also provide the minerals and plant hormones that reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Add these grains to salads, stews and risottos. Why not serve sometimes in place of potatoes, bread or rice with halal meat?
Couscous is an old favourite, particularly in Moroccan and Middle-Eastern cuisine, deliciously complimented with almonds and sultanas and other dried fruits to serve alongside lamb. You might not know that the whole-grain variety can earn you five extra grams of fibre. Stuff it inside vegetables, put it in a leafy green salad, or serve with halal meat.
If you need to add extra fibre to your diet, incorporating bulgur is the way to do it, with a cup of bulgur accounting for two-thirds of your daily dietary fibre needs. Bulgur cooks in only a few minutes. It has a chewy texture and a delicious nutty flavor. Try a super-simple traditional plate of Lebanese ‘sayet’, a tomato pilaf made with bulgur, which is a hearty and inexpensive meal blending onions, red chilies, olive oil, tomato paste and fresh tomatoes.
Kee-no-ah? Keen-Wah? Kwin-oah? No, we aren’t sure either. But the point is, although technically a seed and not a grain, this so-called ‘super-crop’ is a complete protein, containing all eight of the essential amino acids. Add it to salads, or make a risotto with it, either on its own or mixed in with risotto rice, for a nutty flavour and extra bite: try one with halal chicken, mushrooms and thyme. Try quinoa in a bright red and green tabbouleh with tomatoes, parsley, cucumber, salad leaves, and red chilis.
Buckwheat boasts being one of the best grain-based sources of magnesium, which many of us lack in our diets. A deficiency is reported to worsen symptoms of PMS and insomnia. Buckwheat has an intense flavour that can bring salads to life. Serve buckwheat with fish, in salads with bejeweled root veg, fresh herbs and bright peas or beans, in a risotto, as a pilaf, or alongside halal meat.
Freekeh has four times more fibre than brown rice. It also contains more vitamins and minerals than other grains. It has an earthy flavour and a coarse texture, which mixes beautifully with sweeter spices like cinnamon and all-spice. Try making a pilaf from freekeh, serving with yoghurt and handfuls of fresh mint, coriander and parsley. Look for it in Middle Eastern supermarkets.
Pearl barley has a high fibre content and is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It makes a delicious risotto with seasonal vegetables (in colder months try it with pumpkin and sage). Put it in summer stews with spring vegetables and poached halal chicken, or served with oily fish. As always, add it to any salad creation for added health benefits, flavour and texture.
Let us know if you have any favourite ways of using grains in your meals, or if you use any grains we haven’t mentioned!