Category Archives: Whole Grains and Legumes

Wild Rice and Barley Pudding

A variation on a Christmas classic, using some local pantry items.

I had some cooked barley in my fridge, remnants of a barley-broth.  I decided to employ the rice pudding method to save the left-overs.  (Rice Pudding Method: a lengthy secondary cooking in sugar and milk.)  The barley sucks up a lot of the milk and releases some starch into the pot.

Once a porridge has formed, cooked wild rice and dried cherries are added, and the whole lot is thickened with butter, egg yolk, and a touch of cream.

Since the wild rice and cherries are added at the end, they stay firm for textural contrast.

Wild Rice and Barley Pudding


  • 235 g cooked pearled barley
  • 300 g whole milk
  • 30 g dark brown sugar
  • 1 pinch kosher salt>
  • 1/2 stick of cinnamon
  • 50 g cooked wild rice
  • 20 g dried sour cherries
  • 30 mL brandy
  • 1 egg yolk with absolutely all remnants of white removed
  • 20 g butter
  • 30 g heavy cream


  1. Soak the dried cherries in the brandy.
  2. Put barley in a heavy-bottomed pot and cover with milk, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Stir to combine.  Bring to the boil then simmer until most of the milk has boiled off or been absorbed, about 40 minutes.
  3. Strain the cherries from the brandy.  Reserve the brandy.  Add the cherries and wild rice to the barley.  Remove the cinnamon stick.
  4. Return to a simmer.
  5. Remove the pot from the heat.  Stir in the butter, then the egg yolk.  Adjust the consistency of the pudding with the heavy cream.  Serve immediately, accompanied by a taste of the cherry-brandy.

Makes 3-4 servings.

Wild rice and barley pudding, with dried evans cherries

Oat Cake in Maple Syrup

This is one of my favourite ways to showcase my maple syrup.  A simple oat cake is baked, then cut into squares and cooled.  The baking dish is then filled with hot maple syrup, which the cake soaks up like a sponge.  Essentially a lazy man’s pouding chômeur (a lazy man’s poor man’s pudding?)

Oat Cake in Maple Syrup


  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda

For the soaking syrup:

  • 2 cups maple syrup
  • 2 cups water


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease and flour a 9″x14″ casserole.
  2. Combine the oats and water.  Set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time until incorporated.
  4. Sift dry ingredients into a separate bowl.  Slowly add to butter mixture with mixer on lowest speed.  Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl periodically.
  5. Fold in the oats.
  6. Pour the batter into the casserole.  Bake until a wooden skewer comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes.  Cool.
  7. Once the cake has cooled, cut into serving squares without removing from the casserole.  Heat the maple syrup mixture on the stove, then pour over the cake.  Let stand for several hours.  Gently warm in a low oven before serving.  Spoon any syrup left in the bottom of the casserole over the plated cake.  Serve with ice cream.

Scotch Broth, or Barley-Broth

Roast lamb bones and vegetables in a stock potSome would think this is the inside of my compost bin, but it’s actually the inside of my stockpot: roasted lamb bones and vegetables, as well as all the darkly caramelized bits scraped from the bottom of the roasting tray. These flavours formed the soul of the Burns Supper, as the resulting stock was used not only in the soup, but also in the haggis and the clapshot. They were the mellow, earthy foundation of the entire meal.

Making a pot of stock the night before a large meal has become a very fond tradition. The house fills with the aroma first of roasting bones, then of the simmering stock, while excitement for the coming meal slowly accrues.

Some specifics on the stock. First I roasted lamb bones from Four Whistle Farm. It’s hard to come by good lamb femur bones, I think because of the popularity of leg roasts and shanks. A touch of tomato paste was smeared over the bones for the latter half of the roasting. Then onion, carrot, celery, and garlic were baked. The pans were deglazed with water, and bay and rosemary were added. Finally the whole lot was covered in cold water, brought to a simmer and left overnight.

Barley-Broth, with kale and scrag

The first course of my Burns Suppers is always barley-broth, which in North American is usually called Scotch broth.  Vegetable-wise the soup contains onions, kale, and carrots.  The pearled barley is cooked in a separate pot so that it doesn’t cloud the stock.

The final garnish is lamb neck, or scrag. Neck is a variety-cut that sounds a lot grosser than it really is: the meat is indistinguishable from that of the shoulder. The necks are seared, braised in some of the lamb stock, cooled, shredded, and added to the soup.

A bowl of barley-broth, with kale and scrag

Wheat Pudding – Kutia

A sheath of wheatI don’t cook rice very often, but I used to work at a restaurant that let me take home large amounts of leftover rice, and over the years I have developed a taste for rice pudding. My favourite version is made with a blend of brown and wild rice (which adds a satisfying chew to the dish), and dried saskatoons.

Lately I’ve been wondering if I could make a similar dish with a starch that is more common in my kitchen. Take that fifty pound bag of wheat berries in my closet, for instance. The one that I keep threatening to grind into flour if it doesn’t make itself more useful.

I was wary of trying to adapt wheat to a rice pudding dish. When I first started cooking with wheat berries, I thought I could treat them like rice. I made some disastrous attempts at “risotto-style wheat” and “wheat pilaf.” No matter how long I cooked the berries, they never seemed to burst like wild rice, or release their starch like short-grain rice, or stick to each other like pilaf. They were tasty and enjoyably chewy, with a little pop as you bit through the bran, but they just rolled around on the plate, and didn’t form a cohesive starch like rice.

Lately I’ve been reading about the traditional Ukrainian Christmas dinner, a meal of twelve meatless courses, looking for ideas on winter meals. When reading about the main ingredients in their feast, I kept thinking, “I have that in my pantry… I canned tons of that this fall… I know where to find that…,” items like dried mushrooms and fruit and sauerkraut and potatoes. It sounds like the Ukrainian landscape is very similar to ours, which makes the Ukrainian culinary repertoire a useful resource.

The first course of the dinner is usually a dish called kutia: boiled wheat berries, sweetened with honey, often flavoured with poppyseeds, served cold.

Kutia recipes gave me a method for bursting the kernels of wheat and shortening their cooking time. The key is to dry the wheat in a low oven for an hour. I’m not sure exactly why this works. Maybe drying the berries weakens the cells walls and lets the boiling water penetrate more easily. I don’t know. But after drying for an hour, then soaking overnight, the berries burst after only a couple hours of boiling.

Once the cooking liquid is reduced, the dish has a great texture. I half expected the mixture to be gluey, but it’s surprisingly creamy, with the exploded bran giving a good chew-factor.

At the end of cooking, I added honey, salt, dried cranberries, and a bit of butter. For a looser pudding add cream.

My only qualm is the slightly grey colour of the pudding, a flaw that I’m willing to overlook simply because it’s so tasty.

A bowl of wheat pudding, or kutia, with dried cranberries

A fistful of wild rice

Wild Rice

A fistful of wild riceToday Judy showed up with a bag of Canada Goose wild rice from Fort Assiniboine.  Wild “rice” is actually a misnomer: it’s the seed of zizania grasses, which are not part of the rice family, though they are closely related. Anyways, it’s indigenous to lakes across Canada and the northern United States.

The harvesting of wild rice is a pretty interesting affair.  Here’s a video of some hippies in Maine taking a canoe into the rice marsh.

Because of the high moisture content of the grain, wild rice actually goes through a good deal more processing than its true-rice cousins.  After harvest wild rice is left in large, damp piles to mature for about a week, then dried over a fire.  These steps both develop flavour and weaken the outer husk, which is later removed by threshing.[1]

Wild rice is best cooked using the “pasta method,” ie. at a vigorous boil in a large pot of water.  Once the dark layer of bran has burst to reveal the starchy interior, the rice is tender enough to eat.

Wild Rice Broth: A Weird Digression

Wild rice broth with carrots and green onionsI’ve noticed that the water left in the pot is aromatic and flavourful.  To me smells and tastes very much like rooibos tea.  It also has a fantastic colour and is relatively clear.

It got me thinking.

I started saving my wild rice broth, usually to incorporate it into the same dish as the rice.  I might, for instance, reheat the rice in a bit of its own broth.  I’ve also tried infusing the broth with a bit of garlic and celery, and I think it’s good enough to be consumed as a first course.

Perhaps, with its mild astringency, the broth is better enjoyed as a tea.

Just thinking aloud.


1. McGee, Harold. On Food and Cooking. ©2004 Scribner, New York. Page 476.

Homemade Granola

A jar of granolaIn the last few days I have learned a lot about oats. For example: whole oats are called groats. Not impressed? Fine. Here are the main “styles” of processed oats:

  • Rolled oats: steam-rolled flat. I think the most popular style.
  • Steel-cut oats: each groat is cut (by steel, I guess) into a few pieces. Sometimes called Irish oats.
  • Quick Oats: the oats are steel cut and then steam-rolled, even flatter than rolled oats, reducing cooking time (hence the name).

Why have I become a scholar of oats? This week Judy brought us a 20 kg bag of rolled oats and a 20 kg bag of quick oats, both from the Can-Oat mill in Manola, and each costing about $25. While Lisa and I are pushing shopping carts through organic grocery stores and reading labels to try and find local food, Judy is hitting the highway and visiting industrial milling operations and talking to farmers.

As dry goods, our oats will keep for months, as long as we store them in a cool, dry place. Regardless of how well they keep, the simple fact that there is almost a hundred pounds of oats in my house has made me anxious to start figuring out how I can use them. Hence the oat research.

The first information I came across was historical. Several sources that I consulted had a quote from Samuel Johnson’s dictionary, which defines oats as a grain “which in England is generally given to horses, but which in Scotland supports the people.” Apparently the common Scottish reply went something like, “That’s why England produces such fine horses, and Scotland such fine men.”

Eventually I found some practical information on consuming large amounts of oats. Here are the down and dirty, super-simple recipes with which I plan to eat my bounty.

Basic Granola


  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/8 cup cold-pressed canola oil
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup cup nuts and seeds
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit


  1. Combine all the ingredients except the dried fruit in a large bowl and mix with a rubber spatula until everything is well coated in the oil and sweeteners.  Spread evenly on a parchment-lined sheet pan.
  2. Bake at 375°F. Watch the oats around the very edges of the pan. When they are just starting to brown (about 8 minutes into baking), flip and redistribute the oats as best you can, then return the tray to the oven until, once again, the oats on the perimeter start to brown (roughly another 4 minutes). Watch carefully: they’ll burn quickly. At this point the oats will feel soft and moist, but as they cool they will become crisp.
  3. Once the granola has cooled, add the dried fruit.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

That’s just the base. Add dried fruit, nuts, spices, and dairy products as you see fit. I like mine with hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, and dried currants.

Yogurt and granola with hazelnuts, pumpkinseeds, and dried currants



Granola Bars


  • 10 oz pitted dates
  • 2 oz dried sour cherries
  • 2 oz honey
  • 8 oz granola (recipe above)
  • small pinch kosher salt


  1. Finely chop the dates and cherries in a food processor.  Transfer to a large bowl.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix until a stiff paste forms.
  2. Line a small casserole with wax paper.  Lightly wet your fingers and press the granola mixture into the casserole and smooth out the surface.
  3. Transfer to a wire rack and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
  4. Cut into desired shapes and let stand on the wire rack over night.  Transfer to an airtight container and store at room temperature.

Yield: 8 x 2.5 oz granola bars

Homemade granola bars