Cereals: Grains, Uses, Cooking & Recipes

Cereals are edible grains such as wheat, rice, oats, barley, rye, corn, and maize. These grains and their products are staple foods in everyday use.

Grains and products

  • Wheat: White and wholemeal flour, wheaten cornflour; breakfast cereals; kinds of pasta such as macaroni, spaghetti, etc.
  • Oats: Breakfast cereal such as oatmeal, rolled oats, quick-cooking oats.
  • Barley: Pearl barley, barley flakes.
  • Rice: Unpolished brown rice or polished white rice; processed breakfast cereal, rice flour.
  • Corn: Maize, cornflour; processed breakfast cereal; glucose or maize syrup.
  • Rye: Rye flour for rye bread.
  • Sago: Sago made from the pith of sago palm and tapioca from the root of a plant are not actually cereals but generally regarded as such.

Their uses

Cereals and their products are used in these ways:

  • For bread, pastry, cakes, puddings: Wheat flour (white or wholemeal), cornflour, rice flour.
  • For porridge meal or processed breakfast cereal: Oats, wheat, rice, corn.
  • For puddings: Rice, sago, tapioca for baked puddings, top-of-the-stove and molded puddings, cornflour for puddings such as blancmange.
  • For thickening gravies, sauces: Flour, rice flour, cornflour.
  • Other uses: As potato substitute, accompaniment to savory dishes, the main ingredient of savory dishes, in plates of pasta, etc.

Cooking methods

Cereals are cooked to improve their flavor; to make the grain more digestible by softening outer covering. This is usually done by cooking grain with liquid until grain absorbs some of the liquid, swells, and softens.

Wholegrain cereals which retain outer protective covering require longer cooking than refined cereals. Soaking reduces cooking time.

Flour and cornflour cook and thicken as the quantity of liquid is reduced by absorption.


Polished white rice, locally produced or imported, is used for both savory and sweet dishes. Unpolished brown rice is a rich source of vitamin B, essential for the health of the nervous system.

Cooking method 1: Allow 1 cup uncooked rice for 3 cups cooked rice required. Drop rice, gradually, into a large quantity of boiling water (salted). Cook quickly, uncovered, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain in a colander, let stand undisturbed for 5 minutes; the heat of the rice will steam it and each grain will be separate.

Cooking method 2: Wash rice if necessary, place in a saucepan. Add sufficient cold water to come exactly ¾ inch above the level of rice, irrespective of the quantity of rice and the size of saucepan.

Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium and continue cooking until all water has evaporated and air bubbles show. Immediately reduce heat to lowest, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and simmer 15 to 20 minutes. Do not stir the rice at all during this process.

Wholemeal and oatmeal

Coarse- or fine-ground wheatmeal or oatmeal, rolled oats or quick-cooking processed oats used chiefly as breakfast porridge.

Wholemeal flour, rich in vitamin B, is used for wholemeal or wholewheat bread; also as flour, alone or in conjunction with white flour, for cooking.

Oatmeal or wheatmeal porridge: Two ounces oatmeal, ¾ pint water, ¼ teaspoon salt; or 4 tablespoons wheatmeal porridge, ½ pint cold water, ¼ teaspoon salt.

Blend oatmeal or wheatmeal with some of the water. Place the remainder of water and salt in a saucepan. Just before it boils, stir in blended cereal. Continue stirring until boiling, simmer ¾ to 1 hour for oatmeal, 20 to 30 minutes for wheatmeal.

Alternative method: Soak oatmeal or wheatmeal, water, and salt overnight. Next morning, stir until boiling, simmer 25 to 30 minutes for oatmeal, 12 to 15 minutes for wheatmeal.

Rolled Oats: One cup rolled oats, 3 cups water, 1 teaspoon salt.

Make as above.

Quick-cooking Oats (and refined porridge meals): Make as directed on package.

Sago and tapioca

Sago and tapioca are starchy ingredients used for puddings. Sago cooks quickly, pearl tapioca takes longer, but time can be reduced by overnight soaking.

Quick-cooking tapioca mentioned in American recipes is similar to sago, which can be substituted.


Store in a cool, dry place. In warm or humid weather buy in small quantities to prevent the development of weevils. Cereals in moisture-proof packs keep well if wrapped and secured closely after use.

Buy unpolished rice in small quantities, store in a tin. The husk contains oil which tends to become rancid and cause slightly bitter taste if storage conditions are unfavorable.

Fried rice

One to two tablespoons oil, ½lb cooked, chopped pork, 4 cups cooked rice, ½ teaspoon salt, 4oz shelled prawns, 1 egg, 1 dessertspoon soy sauce mixed with 1 dessertspoon water, 2 shallots (chopped), 1 dessertspoon chopped ham.

Heat oil in a large frying pan and add pork. Fry for a minute or two, then add the rice and salt. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring to prevent the rice from sticking to the pan.

Add prawns, mix well, then clear a small space in rice and drop in the egg, breaking the yolk. When this is nearly cooked stir and mix through the rice. Add the soy sauce with water and the shallots. Mix well and pile on to a serving platter. Scatter the ham over and serve immediately.

Baked sago custard

Two ounces sago, 1¼ cups water, pinch salt, 2 cups milk, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 eggs, few drops vanilla essence, 1 dessertspoon butter, nutmeg.

Wash sago. Heat water and salt to boiling, add sago and stir until transparent. Mix in milk and sugar, stir until blended. Remove from heat, cool. Beat eggs lightly, add to sago with essence. Turn into a pie dish, sprinkle with nutmeg and dot with butter. Stand dish in a pan of cold water. Bake in a moderate oven until set, about 40 minutes.

Baked rice custard

Two ounces uncooked rice, 2 cups boiling water, pinch salt, 2 cups milk, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons sultanas, few drops vanilla essence, 1 dessertspoon butter, nutmeg.

Wash rice, place in a saucepan with trie boiling water and salt. Cook very gently until all water has evaporated and rice is tender. Remove from heat, add milk and sugar.

Beat eggs, stir into rice with sultanas and essence. Pour into a pie dish, place dobs of butter on top and sprinkle with nutmeg. Stand pie dish in a pan of cold water to prevent custard boiling while cooking. Bake in a moderate oven until set, about 40 minutes.

Sago fruit fluffs

Two eggs, ½ cup sugar, 3 cups milk, 2 dessertspoons gelatine, 2 tablespoons water, 6 tablespoons sago, pinch salt, extra 4 tablespoons sugar for meringue, vanilla, cooked or canned fruit.

Beat egg yolks, add milk, sugar, sago, and salt. Heat gently to the boiling point, stirring constantly. Simmer 10 minutes, cool slightly. Stir in gelatine softened in warm water.

Beat egg-whites stiffly, gradually add extra sugar. Beat to meringue consistency, fold in hot sago mixture and vanilla. Mix well, stir occasionally while cooling. Spoon into serving dishes; chill. Serve topped with fruit.

Tapioca cream

Three tablespoons tapioca, 1 cup water, ¾ pint milk, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 eggs, ½ teaspoon vanilla, nutmeg.

Soak tapioca in water overnight. Simmer with milk and sugar until soft (about 25 to 30 minutes), stirring occasionally. Cool slightly, add beaten egg yolks. Cook 1 minute longer without boiling. Fold in stiffly beaten egg-whites and vanilla. Pour into a serving dish, sprinkle with nutmeg. Serve chilled.

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