Whenever I feel like preparing a healthy meal, the quickest fix is to replace white rice with a whole grain mix. I keep a bag of 5 grains mix at home that consists of brown rice, oat, barley, buckwheat, and sorghum, a really convenient pantry item to have around when I want some vitamin-packed, fibre-enriched wholesome goodness. Stir fry the cooked grains with chopped garlic, brown mushrooms, and red capsicum to make a quick and simple one-dish meal. Or turn it into a really presentable one by stuffing the grains into a pumpkin, steamed for 20 minutes, and then serve it piping hot.
I cook the grains with tomatoes and sometimes pumpkin slices, so that after the grains are cooked, I stir to mix softened tomatoes and pumpkin flesh into the rice, and this is already good enough to be eaten on its own. The ingredients are so rich in flavor that I only need to season with black pepper. The sweetness from pumpkins, tomatoes, the umami from mushrooms, even the nutty grains are indeed good enough on their own for me to taste delicious in every bite. But I have a very high tolerance for under-seasoned food, so go ahead and sprinkle some sea salt if you find it tasting “flat”.
Cooking the mixed grains takes up quite some time if you are in a hurry. A great time-saving suggestion. Make them ahead and store them in handy serving sizes in the freezer. I cook up to 4 cups of the mix grains, then divide them into 4 portions to be kept in the freezer up to 1 month, this handy size of 1 cup per portion makes it super convenient for me to have ready-cooked grains anytime, whether I want to make a meal for 1 or 2 or 4.
Meatfree Pumpkin Stuffed Rice
1 cup uncooked 5-grains mix 1 & 1/4 cup water 8-10 cherry tomatoes 200g brown button mushrooms, sliced 1/4 red capsicum, diced** 1 clove garlic, minced 2 whole small pumpkins 1 tablespoon light olive oil ground black pepper, sea salt, to taste
** For this small serving recipe, I use only the red version. If making a large serving, you might want to add more colors by adding the yellow and green capsicums.
Place 1 cup of 5 grains mix (rinsed and drained), water, cherry tomatoes, a dash of pepper in a covered pot, and cooked till all the water has evaporated. Turn off the heat and leave this to stand for at least 10 minutes. Uncover the pot, and stir to mix the cooked tomatoes with the grains using a wooden spoon. Leave the pot uncovered to rid excess moisture and for rice to cool down.
When the rice is cooling down, prep the pumpkins by cutting out the tops with a sharp knife to make lids. Scoop out the seeds with a small metal spoon, creating a hollow center for stuffing the grains with later.
Now we are ready to stir fry the mix grains. In a heated pan, add olive oil and fry minced garlic till aromatic. Add in diced capsicum and sliced brown mushrooms, cook till the mushrooms start to sweat. add in the cooked grains, and stir around to mix the ingredients well. Season with sea salt and black pepper to taste. Remove pan from heat.
Stuff the pumpkins with cooked grains and cover with the cut-out lids, steam for 20 minutes on high heat. The pumpkins are cooked when you can insert a skewer easily. Remove from steamer and transfer them on a serving plate. To keep the grains warm, do not cut the pumpkins until you are ready to eat. Depending on what else you are serving these with, you can serve them in wedges, or halves.