The other day, at a complete loss as to what to make for dinner, I discovered lovely, lovely wheat berry pilaf.
It was one of those days when the weekly shop had dwindled to odd remnants. The fridge was empty, the cupboards a wasteland of half used bags of grains and beans. Normally under these circumstances I would probably just go to the local shop and pick up something to make, but not this day, no. This day I would accept the challenge, and create something delicious with what we had. And so I turned to the freezer.
I’ve become a bit of a fan, in recent months, of frozen veggies. I must admit that I used to be a bit sneery about the whole frozen veg thing… I mean surely frozen veggies couldn’t possibly be as good, or as nutritious as their fresh counterparts. But when I read an article about how frozen vegetables can actually be more nutritious than the grocery store’s fresh offerings I was intrigued, sceptical, but intrigued.
After looking into it more though, and thinking about how frozen veggies can fit into my family’s life, it all rings true. First of all veggies that are selected to be frozen are harvested at their optimum moment, when their nutrient content is at it’s peak, and then blanched and frozen within a few hours of being picked. On the other hand, to maximize their shelf life, vegetables that are destined to be sold fresh tend to be harvested before they’ve reached their maximal nutritional potential. Because they’re fresh, the nutrition begins to dwindle as the time since their harvest passes, and when you take into account the time that they spend in transit, on the grocery store shelf, and subsequently in our fridges before being consumed, all adds up to a significant loss of nutrients.
The other aspect to consider is waste. Take, for instance, spinach. Spinach is sold fresh in big bags, usually containing much more than I would usually use in one recipe. So most of the time if I’ve bought spinach, I’ll only really make it through half or three-quarters of the bag before it starts to go bad. With some veggies if they’ve just wilted you can still use them to make stock, but I do wonder how many of their nutrients remain by this time. But with frozen spinach, I can buy a big bag (which for the amount you’re getting is much cheaper than the fresh stuff in the first place)and can use what I need, when I need it, and know that it will last for several months, and will maintain its nutrient content throughout.
I must say, I’m a bit of a convert. Frozen veggies make sense to me.
So with some frozen veg at the ready and half a bag of wheat berries, I set to concocting a warm, filling and nutritious dis; wheat berry pilaf. I love the way this turned out. Wheat berries are lovely and earthy and maintain a chewy texture which I really enjoy, and which makes this rich, wholesome dish very satisfying. We had this as a main course, but it would be a lovely side dish too, and is lovely with scrambled eggs.
- 1 Tbsp oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 100g or 2/3 cup frozen mushrooms
- 2 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce
- 100g or 2/3 cup frozen spinach
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 200ml or 3/4 cup hot water, plus a bit more if needed
- 150g or 3/4 cup of wheat berries
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- Set a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the oil and when it’s hot add the onion and a good pinch of salt. Cook stirring occasionally for five minutes.
- Add the mushrooms and tamari or soy sauce to the pot and continue to cook for another 10-15 minutes, until the onions are soft and most of the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated.
- Add the remaining ingredients and stir until well combined.
- Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and allow it to simmer, stirring occasionally, for 45-55 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the wheat berries are cooked (the cooked texture is still quite firm and chewy).
- Season to taste and serve hot, perhaps with a dollop of yogurt and/or some chopped fresh parsley if you’ve got some.