The Smiling Chef: Brainy Grains and Pulses


WORDS | Brendon D’Souza

Grains are a good source of essential proteins. In addition, they are usually quite inexpensive and make great weekday lunches, or even elegant desserts. Spicy lentil enchiladas are great for when the weather starts to cool down, whilst the brown rice salad makes a great accompaniment to fish. For those special occasions with tight budgets, these semolina crème brûlées will no doubt be a truly memorable dessert.



Lentil, eggplant and tomato enchiladas

Prep time 20 minutes | Cooking time 40 minutes

Serves 4

  • 200g Puy lentils, rinsed
  • 200g ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 100g eggplant, diced
  • 1 medium brown onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 medium green chilli, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 80g baby spinach, washed
  • 1 cup tomato passata cooking sauce
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • ½ cup béchamel sauce
  • ½ cup grated cheese

For the filling place the lentils, tomatoes, eggplant, onion and spices in a large cooking pot and cover with enough cold water to reach 2cm above the mixture.  Season with pepper and cook following the instructions on the lentil packet until they are tender. Season with salt and stir in spinach, and chilli if desired.

To make the enchiladas spread ¼ of the tomato passata in the bottom of a rectangular baking dish. Lay a tortilla flat on a kitchen bench. Cover with ⅛ of the filling. Roll up the tortilla and place it in the baking dish. Repeat to make eight rolls.

Cover the enchiladas with the remaining passata and top with the béchamel sauce and grated cheese. Bake in a 200ºC oven for 10-15 minutes until the cheese is bubbling.


Tip: Any leftovers will make a great lunchbox filler which can easily be heated up in the microwaves at uni. Be sure to pack it in a microwave safe, leak-proof dish, and don’t forget a fork.




Autumn veggies and rice

Prep time 10 minutes | Cooking time 15 minutes

Serves 4

  • 200g brown rice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 200g green zucchini, cut into 1cm dice
  • 200g broccoli, cut into florets, stalk reserved (see ‘Tip’ below)
  • 25g sesame seeds
  • ½ lemon, juiced

Cook the rice according to the directions on the packet. I recommend the absorption method. This helps to retain all the nutrients.

While the rice cooks, heat oil in a frying pan and stir-fry vegetables for 3-4 minute over a high heat till cooked, but still a vibrant green.

Once the rice is cooked, stir through the vegetables, sesame and juice, and season well.


Tip: If you carefully peel off the outside skin of the broccoli stem with a knife or peeler, you can dice the flesh and eat it. It gives great crunch to this salad.



Something sweet: Semolina crème brûlée

Prep time 10 minutes | Cooking time 15 minutes | Chilling time 3 hours or overnight

Serves 4

  • 25ml orange juice
  • 4 prunes
  • 600mL milk
  • 50g butter
  • 50g semolina
  • 50g caster sugar, plus 4 tbsp extra for the topping

Place the juice and prunes in a small microwave-safe bowl. Heat on high for 30 second to allow the prunes to plump up.

For the semolina cream, place the milk and butter into a medium saucepan. Heat over medium flame till just under boiling: reduce heat to low and rain in the semolina. Cook, stirring slowly for 10-15 minutes until the mixture thickens. Be very careful as the mixture will bubble and splatter. You are looking for a thick creamy consistency. Stir through the sugar.

Divide the prunes and juice between four ovenproof ramekins. Top with ¼ of the semolina mixture in each, cover with foil and chill for 3 hours or more in the fridge.

When ready to serve sprinkle 1 tbsp of caster sugar over each pudding. If you have a blowtorch, slowly wave the flame 5cm away from the surface until caramelised. Alternatively, pop under a grill/salamander for 5 minutes until caramelised.


Tip: A little goes very long way with this dessert. It may not seem like much semolina, but it expands quite rapidly when heated so do not be tempted to add more, or youll have yourself a semolina volcano.


Happy Cooking and Keep Smiling,

Brendon D’Souza, a.k.a. The Smiling Chef :)

Check out Brendon’s blog at for more great recipes.