Do you know what a “Grain Bowl” is? No, neither did I. Turns out it is a quick and easy, one-dish meal, which contains one or a variety of grains. In England I guess this is just called “Lunch” but in America, where they simply have to invent a name for everything, they are very big as part of a healthy, well-balanced diet .
The basic idea is you pick a grain – brown rice, Freekeh, quinoa, Farro or couscous.
Add salad or leafy greens – anything from raw kale, spinach, rocket, radicchio or salad leaves. Not too much apparently, as then it is a salad and not a grain bowl!
Add cooked seasonal vegetables– roast beetroot, squash, sweet potato, cauliflower, broccoli or Brussel sprouts for example.
Add protein – fish, chicken, beans, chickpeas, edamame or an egg, poached, fried or hard boiled.
Add dressing or a sauce – a basic vinaigrette or a themed dressing such as Asian, Moroccan or Thai. Use ingredients such as Harissa, curry pastes stirred into yogurt or mayonnaise, coconut milk, miso and lots of herbs and spices.
Add garnishes – toasted nuts, seeds, crumbled cheese, avocado, broad beans or crispy bacon.
So as you can see, the possibilities are endless. My fridge though is packed with sweet potatoes and Brussel sprouts so this seemed a good place to start.
My choice of grain was cous cous although I am a great fan of Farro too. I am off quinoa ever since I discovered that it comes with a heavy environmental footprint. Due to the huge rise in demand, Bolivians can no longer afford to buy Quinoa, as its price is now so over inflated, and as a result they are starving. The demand has also resulted in decreased soil fertility and erosion due to over farming. I don’t know all the ins and outs, but quite frankly I can survive without it. For those who require a gluten free option, try the less popular, and therefore less destructive, Amaranth. But for now Quinoa, along with unsustainable Palm Oil, which is threatening the future of Orangutans, has joined my list of avoided products.
My sauce is based on the Spanish Adobo sauce. It turns up all over the Americas too, in various guises. I opted for a smoked Chipotle chilli, which is my favourite and ready available, and I was really pleased with the outcome. The combination of chilli, garlic, ginger and cumin is one that I use so often, that I know that I will be using this recipe all the time. In fact, I used it again this week in my Spicy Sweet Potato and Bean Burgers.
I have never tried roasting Brussel sprouts before. I never thought they would work, but I was wrong. The combination of the Brussel sprouts roast with sweet potato, maple syrup and my home made Adobo sauce was enough to convince me that I will be making this again too!
Finally, my garnish was Crispy Roast Chickpeas. They are an old favourite, though I have never used them in a grain bowl before. Up until now I just put them on a salad!
4 or 5 Smoked Chipotle Chillies (soaked in water)
Large knob of ginger
2 cloves garlic (peeled)
2 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp salt
2-3 tbsp olive oil
Peel the ginger by scrapping off the skin with a teaspoon, roughly chop and put together with all the other ingredients. Whiz up with a hand blender. Add a little water if necessary to get a smooth paste.
Spicy Chipotle Maple Roast Sweet Potato and Brussel Sprout Grain Bowls.
200g Brussel sprouts, stems trimmed and cut in half
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon Adobo sauce (more if you like it spicy)
½ small sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1 cms chunks
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon coconut oil
100g whole wheat couscous
Extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp Mayonnaise (leave out for vegans)
1 tsp Adobo sauce
Preheat the oven 200C. Line a baking sheets with parchment paper. Toss the Brussel Sprouts and sweet potato with the maple syrup, Adobo, a little salt and pepper and coconut oil. (If you keep your coconut oil in the fridge like I do you might want to melt it in the microwave for a minute or two.) Spread on the sheet. You can add your chickpeas (see recipe below) at the same time. Check the veg and chickpeas regularly and move round the trays if necessary to ensure even cooking. The Brussel sprouts are done when they are turning golden brown and beginning to caramelise.
Meanwhile put your cous cous in a bowl with a little salt and olive oil. Mix well and cover with boiling water. Leave to sit for 15 minutes.
Make a dressing from the juice from the lemon, some olive oil and a pinch of salt. Whisk well. Dress your salad leaves with the lemon dressing and put in the bottom of your bowl. Fluff up your cous cous with a fork and add the roasted vegetables. Check seasoning and pile on top of the rocket, finally scatter the roasted chickpeas on top. Mix the mayonnaise with a little more Adobo sauce and let it down with water until you have the consistency of single cream. Drizzle over the salad.
Crispy Roasted Chickpeas
I’m really love these with all sorts of seasoning but anything with chilli lends itself particularly well. Check out Seasoned Pioneers for some of their spice mixes such as Cajun or Creole Spice Blend, Thai Seasoning Blend, Fajita Seasoning or Baharat or Ras-el-Hanout but smoked paprika is good too.
One 15-ounce can chickpeas
2 tablespoons olive oil
Spice blend of your choice
Preheat oven to 200C.
Drain the can of chickpeas in a strainer and rinse with water for a few seconds to clean. Shake the strainer to rid of excess water. Lay paper towel on a baking sheet, and spread the chickpeas over. Use another paper towel to gently press and absorb the excess water. Roll around with the paper towel to also remove the thin skin where possible. Toss with olive oil and salt and roast for 25-35 minutes until the chickpeas are a deep golden brown and crispy. If they are not cooked enough they will go soggy but make sure that they do not burn. Season with spice blend whilst still warm.