Add interest to a bland bowl of grains | Ask Sonya

Quinoa, red and green lentils and couscous: I have barrels of the stuff. Is there a simple way of cooking the lot together?
Gerald Straker, Hertford

I'm afraid the short answer to this question is no, because they all take different times to cook. And, even if you cook them separately, I wouldn't suggest serving them together.

But all is not lost … Although they are all bland bowls of starch on their own, they are very easy to perk up and are obviously a healthy and welcome change from potatoes and rice. Let's start with couscous. I always soak mine in a stock so it immediately retains the flavour of the liquid. Then I add something with lots of flavour such as roasted red peppers, skinned and finely diced, sauteed courgettes, onions and garlic, all finely diced. This can be eaten hot or cold.

Quinoa takes a good 25 minutes to cook usually, and I find sweating a few onions and bacon or garlic off first, then adding the quinoa and an appropriate amount of chicken or vegetable stock gives a more palatable result. Again, a few roasted or sauteed veg not only add flavour but also help break up the texture, which can be a little solid.

Lentils are incredibly versatile. Puy are my favourite. Try cooking them with finely diced carrots, onions, celery and garlic. When cooked, add a little reduced red wine and some Dijon mustard. I love to serve these with guinea fowl or crisp duck confit.

Red lentils make a comforting dhal. Cook them in a covered container in the oven with chopped onions, ginger, garlic and sweet potatoes. Add some spices (coriander, cumin, turmeric and a little cayenne) and a tin of chopped tomatoes, and cook until everything is soft. Stir with a wooden spoon, check the seasoning and stir in some fresh coriander. Great with lamb.

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