Growing up in what I would call a traditional African household my diet consisted of a very limited variety of food. The discussion of “What’s for dinner?” usually started with what starch was going to be prepared and the options were usually Nsima (Also referred to as Pap, Sadza and Fufu by some), rice, potatoes and occasionally pasta. As you can imagine, this was a very boring and weighty diet.
In recent years I decided to find alternatives to the usual carbohydrate filled food that has become synonymous with African cuisine. Here are easy to cook and affordable carb alternatives you’ll find in my pantry:
- Bulgur Wheat – Also known as Bulgar or Burghul Wheat. It is a cracked wheat that is rich in protein and minerals and has a very nutty taste. It works well in salads or as a carb substitute for your favourite stew. I recently posted a recipe for it on my website, check it out here. It’s also very affordable. It can be found at most supermarkets.
- Hulled Millet – This is an ancient grain from the East and has a mild, sweet flavour and is quick to cook. Like most of the grains on this list it works in salads but it’s mild flavour allows it to be used both in sweet and savoury cooking.
- Buckwheat – It is high in protein and essential amino acids and is gluten free. Try buckwheat instead of rice the next time you make a curry or a buckwheat risotto.
- Barley – Barley is very similar to buckwheat except Barley has a much nuttier taste. Beef and Barley stew is a great one pot meal to keep you warm on cold nights and can feed the masses easily.
- Couscous – Couscous is actually not a grain but a more granular form of semolina that is used to make pastas. Eat in moderation as it has a higher calorie load but is definitely much lighter than most carbs. Works well in light salads or served with stews.
- Lentils – Lentils have a large amount of fiber and protein and are considered one of the healthiest staples because of their low glycemic load. They are very cheap, are available in an array of beautiful colours and work well in soups, stews and curries. I also like to make what I call a lentil, spinach and tomato goulash.
- Semolina & Polenta – They are not the same thing but very similar. Semolina is high in protein and low GI. Polenta is high in complex carbohydrates, iron and zinc. They are both high in fiber and creamy semolina or polenta make for a great substitute for mashed potatoes and can also be used in baking.
- Quinoa – The most expensive item on this list because of its high demand and being at the top of the recent superfood trend. It is a complete protein and is wheat free. It actually belongs to the family of beetroot, spinach and chard.
I hope this inspires you to add more variations in your daily diet.