Once the catch-cry of the neo-hippy movement, grains and seeds are currently seeing an explosion on the mainstream dining scene. As a response to the increasing push for meat-free menu items, substantial dishes are utilizing grains and seeds in more central and creative ways. Traditionally underrated, grains and seeds are emerging as more than just fillers to a dish. As a core ingredient, they add oomph, a myriad of textures and flavour. From caramelly malted grains to fizzy fermented ones, these little gems are no longer merely bit players, but are having their moment in the spotlight.
Let your imagination do the talking
Like most ingredients, the use of seeds and grains in dishes are only limited by a Chef’s imagination. With pressure on meat prices and Chefs wanting to offer a point of difference, it’s time to re-think how you use traditional grains and seeds while keeping an open mind about taking advantage of the new ones on the market. And this is not only from a trends and cost perspective, but also from the variety of flavours offered in everything from amaranth to Aussie wattle seed.
Go local in your choice
And expect more local flavours to be hitting menus soon. Bret Cameron, former Chef at Harvest in Newrybar, continues to break with tradition and focus on his local food philosophy, adding indigenous seeds and grains along the way. At his new venue, The Pacific Club in Bondi Beach, he starts with breakfast dishes of burnt orange and wattle-seed porridge with grilled banana, pecans and maple, or wood-fired crumpets with wattle-seed butter, white chocolate and honey. The ever present avo smash gets a twist with avocado on charcoal and black quinoa toast with macadamia cheese and finger lime. At dinner, expect to see lamb tartare with fermented pearl barley, native currants and Dijon mustard. There are also desserts of chocolate delice with burnt orange and wattle seed ice cream.
Hemp is the trend
While we all know about quinoa, and hopefully how to pronounce it, one of the biggest food hits this year has been hemp seeds which can be found in everything from cakes and baked goods to beers, oils and burgers. Hemp joins a host of other delicious and versatile ancient grains and seeds on current menus. They will be found sprinkled over summer salads, or as stuffing for roasted chicken and included in cakes and muffins.
Byron Bay, in NSW, is a great place to start for the hemp as food fad. Elixiba is a vegan eatery in Byron and ‘home of the hemp burger,’ the gluten-free burger features a black bean and hemp pattie, lettuce, tomato, caramelised onion and a tarragon-based aioli. There are also hemp pancakes and lattes on offer.
Ever the one to be on-trend, burger chain Grill’d has introduced two new plant-based burgers to its menu, one of which includes hemp. The Hemp Therapea is a pea and hemp pattie with avocado, cos lettuce, beetroot, fresh basil, smoked sea salt and tzatziki. Hemp joins a host of other delicious and versatile ancient grains and seeds on current menus. They will be found sprinkled over summer salads, or as stuffing for roasted chicken and included in cakes and muffins.
At Mrs Sippy in Double Bay, toasted spiced nuts come with sesame and hemp seeds, crispy squid with chipotle aioli, and a charcuterie board.
Even star player Bennelong is getting in on the act with an Arkady grass-fed lamb, with veggies like zucchini, and leaves, plus blossoms and hemp seeds.
At The Grain Store in Flinders Lane, Melbourne, Head Chef Ingo Meissner uses ingredients such as quinoa and farro grains in everything from sweet breakfast options to lunch selections.
The Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council says we will see more “pseudo-grains”, such as amaranth, buckwheat and chia – which are really seeds – as well as grains including freekeh, farro and millet.
Africa and South America, two largely untapped resources of new foods, are both hot destinations for foodies, given the amazing array of dishes that can be found across the dozens of cultures which dot the two continents.
Small, humble and unassuming, the simple grain, with its diverse varieties and multiple uses, is here to stay.