Author: Judith Finlayson
Publisher: Robert Rose Inc. (2013)
I’m a huge fan of whole grains, be they in breads, cookies or pilafs. These days though, there seems to be a war on the most common cereals in the western world, thanks to the fact that many of them – wheat, barley and rye – all contain the protein gluten. For celiacs, this is a serious issue, but whether you’re unable to digest gluten or are just trying to reduce it in your diet, your carbohydrate choices used to be rice or corn, and pre-made products fitting the restriction were nothing short of awful (not to mention full of refined grains). Now, times are changing to embrace a more flavourful, healthier form of gluten free living, and established author Judith Finlayson is throwing her hat into the recipe ring with her new book The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook: 125 Delicious Recipes from Amaranth to Quinoa to Wild Rice.
Finlayson delves into the varied world of grains as a whole in Gluten-Free Whole Grains, incorporating various forms of amaranth, corn, millet, quinoa, teff, buckwheat, Job’s tears, wild rice and sorghum in addition to the standard white and brown rices. The author thoughtfully includes both a primer as well as an in-depth exploration of the gluten free grains – including nutritional values, cooking methods and storage. Some of these grains (Job’s tears, sorghum, teff) I have not found readily in “whole” form (they are available, for a price, in online shops), so if you are not reliant on a gluten-free lifestyle for medical reasons I suggest skipping those recipes or substituting another grain. Recipes are divided between Bread and Breakfasts, Appetizers, Soups, Salads, Poultry, Fish and Seafood, Meat, Meatless Mains, Sides, Sundries and Basics and Desserts, although I feel that many of the recipes overlap enough that fewer categories are really needed (i.e. Appetizers, Soups, and Salads as simply “appetizers”, Poultry and Meat as “meat”). I appreciate the inclusions of vegetarian and fish-based meals as well, although more of those would be welcome as well given the delicate digestive systems of many celiac patients as they are easier to digest. In the back of the book readers will find information on the recipes’ food values for diabetes according to both the American and Canadian Diabetes Associations.
One of the problems with many whole grain recipes (gluten free or not) is the sheer amount of time they take to put together. However, recipes in Gluten-Free Whole Grains like Peppery Shrimp with Quinoa (p. 126) and Moroccan-style Chicken Stew with Chickpeas and Rice (p. 114) can be ready in a half hour, and many recipes rely on pre-cooked grains that you can make on the weekend and store in the fridge or freezer until needed. I fell in love with the Soba Noodles with Broccoli Sauce (p. 158), which made a filling dinner when I added pressed tofu to the sauce’s sauté. I was also looking forward to eating the Mushroom Ragoût (p. 166) (made with millet as I couldn’t find Job’s tears), but neither I nor my family could get past the Chinese 5-spice – even though there is only ½ tsp in the batch. I’d probably add cumin and Szechuan peppercorns if I was to make it again for a more distinctly Asian flair. The Kasha and Beet Salad with Celery and Feta (p. 92) is a bookmark of my beet-loving mom and mine, although the unusual taste of the buckwheat with feta and Dijon may be too strong for some.
On the baking end of things – often the trickiest component of a gluten-free lifestyle – I couldn’t have been happier with the Cranberry-Orange Pecan Muffins (p. 36), which were a hit both as written (served to the family) and at school (made with honey-roasted sunflower seeds in place of nuts and a ground flax egg replacer). I’m looking forward to berry season here too, so I can try my hand at the Wine Soaked Cornmeal Cake with Balsamic Berries (p. 202) – the combination of nuts, coconut, citrus and wine promises to be a delicious base for the macerated fruit.
A gluten free diet does not mean a sentence of sawdust-y bread, boiled rice and protein. Delicious, wholesome meals, snacks and treats can be simply made, for much less money and far more nutrition potential than premade fare. Recipes in The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook: 125 Delicious Recipes from Amaranth to Quinoa to Wild Rice by Judith Finlayson provide a solid base for learning the ropes of gluten free grains, are varied enough to keep palates interested and are easily adaptable to almost any palate.