How do you cook your grains? Sounds like a really silly question doesn't it - but lately, it's been something that I've been changing a little in our kitchen.
Again, after some time shared in the inspiring community kitchen that I am blessed to be guided by, I came upon the idea of soaking and cooking our grains with a stick of Kombu. I think this may be from the Macrobiotic indications, as the Alfalfa House food co-op website says in their section on Kombu (which is under the area of 'Macrobiotic'); "A stick of kombu can be added to pulses during cooking to soften them, increase their nutritional value and digestibility."
Sally Fallon of Nourishing Traditions talks alot about the benefits of soaking grains. In her introduction to Whole Grains on page 452, Fallon talks about the wisdom of our Ancestors who intuitively soaked and fermented all grains before using, cooking and eating them. She further goes on to talk about the mineral deficiency risk of a diet high in un-fermented grains.
Fallon recommends that the soaking of grains breaks down the phytic acid outer layer or bran that is contained in all grains. It is this phytic acid that can inhibit the absorption of vitamins and minerals from our bodies if it is consumed in an un-fermented state. The soaking of grains in warm water will also help to neutralise enzyme inhibitors and encourages production of other beneficial enzymes. (NT p452-453) In the online 'Nourished Magazine' there is two articles which reference the soaking of grains in specific applications; bread and also muesli. Both articles amongst the topic they are discussing, also talk about the general idea of why grains should be soaked before use/cooking/consumption.
We also try to eat a different grain on each day of the week. It doesn't always happen, but we try and in this attempt, our grain consumption is varied. In her book "The Waldorf Kindergarten Snack Book", Lisa Hildreth references in her section 'A Grain a Day', the book "Cooking with Grains" by Emma Graf. In her book, Emma Graf talks about how each day of the week has a cosmic origin and how that cosmic force that comes through on that day can guide us to eat appropriate grains that correspond with the influencing Planets of each day. You can see the suggested grains for each day and the corresponding Planets on this link. In the book, Emma Graf also shares how each grain effects the body's nervous system, digestive system, body functions and energy forces of the body. A summary of these descriptions are also shared on page 25-26 of the Waldorf Kindergarten Snack Book.
I always try to soak the grain we will be having every day. Breakfast grains are soaked the night before and evening grains are soaked in the morning or at the latest at lunchtime. I soak in warm water and add a pinch of Himalayan salt along with the stick of Kombu. Before cooking I generally skim off any froth that has risen out during soaking and then drain and rinse the grain before adding more water to the pot and cooking the grain very slowly by bringing to the boil and then reducing the heat to the lowest setting and cooking with the lid on. I've moved away from using a pressure cooking for any cooking at all after reading Fallon's words in NT about how pressure cookers cook foods too quickly and above the boiling point. (p68). I cook the grain with the stick of Kombu if the grain is to be used in a savory dish. Sometimes the Kombu will fall apart a little during the cooking and mix with the grain but it is not at all noticeable as a 'seaweed flavor' in the taste of the final dish.
I've really enjoyed this addition of soaking our grains with Kombu as it's an easy way to incorporate more sea vegetables into our diet and boost the nutritional benefits of the grains we eat.