Life Extension Magazine®

Bowls of grains for recipes from The Gain Bowl cookbook

The Grain Bowl

In his book The Grain Bowl, restaurateur Nik Williamson provides recipes for novel dishes based on a wide variety of healthy grains, ranging from black rice and farro to barley and buckwheat.

Scientifically reviewed by Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, in May 2022. Written by: Garry Messick.

Unlike commonly used grains such as wheat that are often refined and cause glucose to spike, whole grains have been increasingly recognized in recent years for their health benefits, including their association with lower cholesterol and blood pressure as well as cutting markers of inflammation. Touting the benefits of whole grains, Lilian Cheung, DSc, RD, a lecturer in nutrition at Harvard School of Public health, says, “You’re getting fiber, a healthy plant-based protein, vitamins, minerals, and a variety of phytochemicals that will improve your health” when you make whole grains a part of your diet.

Restaurateur Nik Williamson shares his sentiments. Around the world, restaurants have been adding more whole grain-based meals to their menus. In 2015, Williamson took the trend a step further by opening The Porridge Café in London’s fashionable East End. The eatery was a big success, featuring an entire menu of dishes based on a wide variety of grains—oats, rye, quinoa, chia, spelt, barley, buckwheat, amaranth, millet, and black rice. Now, he’s channeled his enthusiasm for grains into a new cookbook titled The Grain Bowl (Phaidon).

We present below a selection of recipes from The Grain Bowl that are as easy to prepare as they are delicious and nutritious.

Black Rice Chicken Congee


Serves 2 • Preparation 5 minutes • Cooking 50 minutes

  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil, plus extra for frying
  • 2 ½ cups chicken broth (stock)
  • ½ cup black rice
  • 2 large boneless chicken thighs
  • All-purpose (plain) flour, for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons salted peanuts or cashews, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 2 scallions, coarsely chopped
  • Salt and black pepper

Put the garlic, ginger, and olive oil into a mortar and use a pestle (or a small food processor) to grind them until you have a paste.

Put 2 cups of the broth (stock) into a medium pan and bring to a simmer. Add the black rice and allow to simmer, covered, over low heat for 30 minutes, or until almost all the broth has been absorbed. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside.

Sprinkle the chicken with a little flour. Heat a small skillet (frying pan) over high heat, add a little olive oil, then the chicken thighs. Do not move the thighs or shake the pan; this allows caramelization to take place.

Turn the thighs after a couple of minutes. Reduce the heat a little and cook for another few minutes. Once cooked all the way through, remove the chicken thighs from the heat and shred the meat on a clean cutting board. Add the remaining ½ cup broth to the black rice, along with the garlic-ginger paste, and stir over low heat for 10 minutes.

Divide the rice between 2 bowls and top with chicken, nuts, soy sauce, and scallions. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Farro with Beets, Feta, Poached Eggs, and Capers


Serves 2 • Preparation 10 minutes • Cooking 30-45 minutes

  • 11 oz. cooked beets, not in vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ¾ cup pearled Italian farro (pearled spelt)
  • Splash of madeira
  • 1 ¼ cups warm vegetable broth (stock)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 oz. feta, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • Salt and black pepper

Put 9 oz. of the cooked beets into a food processor and puree. Cut the remaining beets into medium dice.

Place a medium pan over medium heat, add the oil and farro (pearled spelt). Stir and cook for 2 minutes. Add the madeira and the broth (stock). Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until almost all the liquid has been absorbed. Add the beet puree and cook for 5-10 minutes, or until that also has almost been absorbed.

When the beet mixture is almost ready, bring a pan of water to simmer over medium heat, add the vinegar and stir the water clockwise with a spoon to create a whirlpool. Crack the eggs and drop them, one at a time, into the center of the swirling water but make sure they do not touch each other. The eggs should take 2-3 minutes to cook. The fresher the eggs, the more likely they are to form a perfectly poached egg. Use a slotted spoon to prod an egg white to see if it’s firm; if it is then immediately remove the eggs from the water and set aside on a plate lined with paper towels.

Divide the beet farro between 2 bowls. Top with the poached eggs, cubed feta, and diced beets and scatter with the capers. Season with salt and pepper to serve.

Rye and Barley with Sweet Peppers, Arugula, and Chile


Serves 2 • Preparation 5 minutes • Cooking 12-13 minutes

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 small red chile, finely diced
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ cups mixed rye and barley flakes
  • 2 ½ cups vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 sweet pepper (preserved) cut into long strands
  • 1 small handful of arugula
  • 2 lemon wedges
  • Salt and black pepper

Place a heavy pan over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the oregano, chile, onion, and garlic and sweat for 2-3 minutes. Add the grains and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent the grains from burning.

Pour in the broth (stock), add the lemon zest, and season with salt to taste. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 7-8 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed and the grains are soft.

Divide the rye and barley between 2 bowls. Top with the sweet pepper strands, arugula (rocket), and the lemon wedges to serve.

Buckwheat with Crispy Bacon, Avocado, and Roasted Tomatoes


Serves 2 • Preparation 10 minutes • Cooking 1¼ hours

  • 4 slices pancetta or lean bacon
  • 1 lb. cherry tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 cup buckwheat
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • 2 teaspoons grated parmesan
  • ½ avocado, sliced
  • Salt and black pepper

Place a skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta or bacon and allow to crisp, then turn over to crisp on other side. Remove from the heat, set aside on a plate lined with paper towels, then snip into small pieces.

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Put the tomatoes into a baking dish, add the extra virgin olive oil, and turn to coat them. Sprinkle with the oregano and some salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, or until just black at the edges. Remove from the oven. Reserve a few tomatoes for the garnish and put the rest into a blender and blend to puree.

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Place a medium pan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the onion and garlic, and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until translucent. Add the buckwheat and pour in the red wine. Allow the wine to be absorbed by the buckwheat, then add the tomato puree. Cook for 20 minutes, or until the puree has almost all been absorbed. Remove from the heat.

Stir in the Parmesan and divide the buckwheat between 2 plates. Top with avocado, pancetta or bacon, and reserved tomatoes. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper to serve.

To order The Grain Bowl, call 1-800-544-4440.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.