Carbs reloaded

Quinoa

Why eat it? Often treated like wheat or oats, but actually a member of the spinach family, quinoa packs a bigger nutritional punch than standard grains. Identified as a food with ‘high nutritive value’ by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, its beneficial components include manganese (almost half of your daily needs are met here), anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, double the amount of calcium than you’ll get from wholewheat, and heart-protecting mono-unsaturated fats. That’s on top of the ‘basics’: 32g of slowly released carbs in this portion, along with 7g of high quality ‘complete’ protein. Then there are the antioxidant flavonoids, two of which – quercetin and kaempferol – can be more concentrated in quinoa than in flavonoid-rich berries. The only downside is all the wasted energy you’ll expend working out how to pronounce it.

Salad of beetroot, broccoli, quinoa, pomegranate, sunflower & pumpkin seeds

What goes in (serves 4)

  • 150g cooked beetroot
  • 80g cooked broccoli
  • 50g cooked quinoa
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tbsp sunflower seeds
  • 4 tbsp pomegranate seeds
  • 1 lemon
  • Splash of good quality red wine vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • 50g good quality rapeseed oil
  • Salad leaves (ideally sweet and bitter)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Caster sugar

How to create it

  • Warm the beetroot slightly and drizzle with olive oil, red wine vinegar, sugar and salt to taste. You’re aiming for a ‘sweet and sour’ effect.
  • Lightly colour the pumpkin and sunflower seeds in the rapeseed oil until golden brown. 
  • Roll the cooked broccoli and quinoa along with the pomegranate in the seeds and oil. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
  • Place the beetroot on the plate and spoon over the broccoli and quinoa mix. Scatter over the sweet and bitter salad leaves, then serve.

Millet

Why eat it? Not to be confused with the rather less tasty 1980s hairstyle, millet is often classed as a grain, but is technically a seed. It’s gluten-free and rich in key nutrients such as cholesterol-lowering niacin, and magnesium, which has been shown to lower blood pressure and heart attack risk. Another bonus is that it’s also particularly packed with phosphorous, which is vital in a runner’s double-whammy of aiding repair to your body and facilitating the process of generating energy. It’s key in forming the mineral matrix of bone, and an essential building block of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which are the molecules that serve as your body’s ‘energy currency’ to get your muscles all fired up.

Baked aubergine, fresh sheep’s ricotta, millet, parsley and radish salad

What goes in (serves 4)

  • 4 aubergines
  • 100g fresh sheep’s ricotta 

  • 80g millet

  • Bunch of parsley, mint and dill

  • Bunch of breakfast radish (thinly sliced)

  • 1 lemon (zest and juice)
  • 2 tbsp toasted pine nuts

  • Olive oil

  • Balsamic vinegar

  • Salt and pepper



How to create it

  • Cut the aubergines in half length-ways, crisscross-score the flesh and liberally salt the flesh side. Place upside down on a wired rack and leave for one hour.
  • Pat the aubergines dry, then place in a roasting tray, flesh-side up. Liberally drizzle with olive oil and pour in a little water to prevent the bases from burning. Bake at 130C until tender, but not completely collapsed. Leave to cool.
  • Cook all the millet in plenty of salted water until softened, then strain and refresh with cold water. Set aside and keep dry.

  • Tear the herbs into small, irregular-sized pieces, and combine with the radish, pine nuts, lemon zest and a little juice. Add the olive oil and seasoning, then set aside.

  • Take the aubergines and scatter the ricotta and millet over them. Next, generously add the salad on top with some more olive oil and a little splash of balsamic, then serve.

Spelt

Why eat it? Spelt is a cousin of wheat but doesn’t aggravate wheat intolerance and delivers a broader range of nutrients. As well as complex carbs for sustained fuelling, the 200g here also provides all your daily requirement of manganese, which plays a key role in digestion by helping our bodies metabolise carbs and protein, and also helps in the formation of connective tissue and bones. In addition, there’s a third of your daily fibre and protein needs ‘spelt’ out here, plus significant hits of magnesium and vitamin B3. All in all, US research at Cornell University places spelt in a class of wholegrains with enough phytonutrient firepower to make them as beneficial to your health as fruit and veg.

Roast young chicken marinated in lemon, honey and green chilli, spelt and broad bean salad

What goes in (serves 4)

  • 1 chicken, spatchcock style (backbone removed)

(Marinade)

  • 150g whole preserved lemon
  • 20g garlic
  • 3g rosemary
  • 90g runny honey
  • 50g olive oil
  • 40g green chilli
  • Pinch of red chilli flakes

(Spelt salad)

  • 200g cooked spelt
  • 15g sunflower seeds
  • 15g pumpkin seeds
  • 40g queen green olives, pitted and chopped
  • 10g preserved lemon peel, cut into fine strips
  • 60g broad beans, small, tender and raw
  • Fresh parsley
  • Fresh mint
  • Salt and pepper
  • Rapeseed oil

(Dressing)

  • 30g clear runny honey
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 80g olive oil

How to create it

  • Blend all the marinade ingredients together into a smooth paste and brush on to the chicken. Marinate over night, or for as long as possible.
  • Cook the chicken at 220C for 15 minutes, leave it to rest then divide into four pieces.
  • Fry the pumpkin and sunflower seeds in the rapeseed oil until golden. Then set aside. 
  • Combine the spelt, olives, lemon peel, parsley, mint and broad beans, and add to the seeds. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Mix all the dressing ingredients together. Combine some of it with the spelt salad and spoon the rest over the chicken.

Buckwheat

Why eat it? Often thought of as a cereal grain, but actually a fruit seed, buckwheat has been credited with improving cardiovascular health thanks to its high concentration of powerful phytonutrient flavonoids such as rutin. It’s also high in magnesium, which improves blood flow and nutrient delivery in your body, and will keep your blood pressure far more stable than refined wheat does. Canadian research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry even shows buckwheat may be helpful in managing diabetes.

Soft poached egg and ratatouille with buckwheat

What goes in (serves 4)

  • 4 organic eggs (ideally Burford Browns)
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 1 large onion, peeled 
  • 2 medium courgettes
  • 1 small aubergine
  • 3 tomatoes, blanched, peeled and deseeded
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and grated
  • 2 tbsp good quality red wine vinegar
  • 100ml good quality olive oil
  • 1 bunch basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 4 tbsp roasted buckwheat
  • Salt and pepper
  • Sugar

How to create it

  • Poach the eggs in copious amounts of simmering water with added vinegar, then refresh in iced water, drain and set aside.
  • Wash all the veg and chop into rough 1.5cm cubes. Place all except the tomatoes into a heavy-based roasting tray, pour the vinegar and olive oil over the top, season with salt and pepper, and one teaspoon each of sugar and oregano. Ensure all the vegetables are coated, then place in an oven at 150C, and bake uncovered until tender, turning occasionally. They will take between 30 to 40 minutes. 
  • When cooked, add the tomato and torn basil, plus more oil, vinegar and seasoning if needed. Then set aside to cool.
  • Gently reheat the poached eggs in simmering, salted water. Then add the buckwheat to the ratatouille, and season to taste. Place the ratatouille in a bowl or on a plate, then gently lift out the poached eggs and place them on top. Drizzle with some olive oil and serve immediately with a side of warm crusty bread.

Polenta

Why eat it? Basically, it’s a posh Italian name for a cornmeal paste of high-fibre, complex carbs. It’s also a good source of magnesium, phosphorus, enzyme-enabling zinc, immune-boosting vitamin B6 and iron, which is vital for efficient delivery of oxygen to your muscles. Also, according to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the carotenoids in polenta – vital for immune function, healthy cell growth and night vision – are absorbed better than from other veg . Handy on after-dark runs, then.

Slow cooked shin of beef, soft organic polenta and olive oil

What goes in (serves 4)

  • 1 shin of beef
  • Flour
  • Splash of vegetable oil
  • 2 knobs of butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 10 garlic cloves, grated
  • 100ml red wine vinegar
  • 375g Port
  • 375g full-bodied red wine
  • 40g Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 bouquet garni (bundle of herbs)
  • 2 litres of chicken stock 
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Parmesan

How to create it

  • Lightly coat the shin in seasoned flour. Heat a casserole dish with a film of oil and a knob of butter in it. Add the shin, lightly brown on all sides then take out. 
  • Discard the oil and butter from the pan, add a fresh knob, followed by the veg, and caramelise them slowly. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  • Add some vinegar and de-glaze the pan (scrape the bits off the bottom), then reduce the sauce by two-thirds. Now add the Port, wine and Worcestershire sauce and reduce by half. Add the shin, bouquet garni and stock, bring to the boil and skim. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for four hours, skimming occasionally.
  • Check the beef is soft and tender, then remove from the liquid. Strain the liquid and vegetables through a fine sieve into a clean pan. Reduce to a saucy consistency, gently pull apart the shin into pieces, place back into the juice and bring back to the boil to serve. 
  • Serve with soft organic polenta, cooked in half water, half milk, and add parmesan