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New Year, new start and new resolutions, most of which include shedding the pounds and eating healthier! Here at Leathams HQ diets, healthy eating and the 2:5 are the buzz words that are lingering around the canteen and hallways. Whilst working at Leathams healthy grains and pulses have been a main ingredient in many of my dishes, with a focus on showing our customers that healthy doesn’t have to be boring.

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What I love about using ancient grains, as well as the unique flavour and texture of the different varieties, is each of their individual back stories, provenance and healthy qualities that are a joy to talk about when presenting recipes and products to customers. In essence, they sell themselves, especially at this time of year (maybe with a little help from the likes of Yotam Ottolenghi’s Middle East and Mediterranean revolution!)

It’s great to see more menus showcasing grains and pulses and giving them the credit they deserve not just as a veggie alternative, but as the star of the show. Restaurants such as Martin Morales’ Peruvian outlet Ceviche and newly opened Andina are typically showcasing dishes that sees grains served with Grana Padano cheese, golden beets, local mushrooms and market fresh vegetables, laced with truffle oil. Last year, the Vital Ingredient salad-bar chain launched a range of Super Salads in which protein-rich freekeh is the hero. Italian restaurant Vapiano does a delicious and innovative fusilli and spelt spaghetti and Leon is currently using Spelt in a muffin breakfast offering.
As the Gluten Free trend is set to continue storming into 2014, I think grains are going to become a chef’s best friend, not only seen as a salad, soup or stew filler, but as an alternative ingredient for a gluten-free bread, pastry, pasta and dough.
In celebration of the New Year and all the great benefits grains can bring, I thought I’d invite you to ‘meet the grains!’ for some healthy inspiration.

Wheat Berries (6 of 6)-1

WHEATBERRIES
These whole, unprocessed wheat kernels, are high in fibre, low in calories and packed with vitamins and minerals. With a subtle creamy yet nutty flavour, they have a versatility that complements hundreds of different dishes from breakfasts to risottos and salads to breads.

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FREEKEH
An ancient Middle Eastern grain made from processed durum wheat with a dominant smoky taste, due to the roasting process it goes through. Freekeh gives slow released sustained energy and is high in fibre calcium, iron, and zinc and low in fat. It has also been known to support the growth of probiotic bacteria, a smart addition to healthy salads.

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QUINOA
It might have been knocking around for a while now, but Quinoa is still hot stuff in my eyes, a gluten free grain with super food qualities that helps control blood sugar level, as well as being a big source of fibre. Quinoa is a great answer to the big gluten free frenzy as a tasty alternative.

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BLACK BARLEY
Originating in Ethiopia, black barley is a distinctive purple seed with a satisfying sweet, almost smoky flavour. Its unique colour, texture and flavour are perfect for pilaffs and salads creating a great visual effect. It has a high fibre and protein content as well as vital vitamins and minerals, is low on fat and cholesterol-free.

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