Millets – the traditional superfood

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While the world extols the virtues of superfoods, millets that are home grown and have been part of Indian diets for centuries are making a comeback of sorts.

The United Nations has officially declared 2018 as the International Year of Millets. Millets have been a staple in Indian diet for centuries but had lost their place in the kitchen. Recently however with people becoming more health conscious people, it has not just made a return in kitchens but also restaurants. Chefs are trying to bring millets back into the diet in different forms and trying to incorporate them in restaurant menus.

Foxtail Millet Pomegranate Sprouts Salad (Veg) from Fresh Menu
Foxtail Millet Pomegranate Sprouts Salad (Veg) from Fresh Menu

Millet Magic

Millets are one of the oldest foods known to humans and are also called ancient super grains. Millets are predominantly gaining more importance as these crops are adaptable to wide range of temperatures, moisture-regimes and input conditions supplying food and feed to millions of dry land farmers, particularly in the developing world.  Packed with multiple health benefits and versatile in use, they can be used as grains in salads, flour , cereals and now even ice creams, millets are a delight for any culinary professional. Sapnil Kalkar, General Manager, Radisson Bengaluru City Center, Bengaluru says, “millet is one of those grains that is known for its benefits all across world and is an underestimated seed that is packed with full of important nutrients. Our team of Chefs has included millets in the menu to create recipes which inherit the legacy and blend them in new avatar which contributes to the local farming community to preserve the traditional grain as well as contribute to the value chain.”

Millet Fried Rice n Schezwan Veggies (Veg)from Fresh Menu
Millet Fried Rice n Schezwan Veggies (Veg)from Fresh Menu

Health Factor

The health benefits of millets are now a well-known and undebatable truth. There’s enough research to prove that millets are meant for the Indian diet more than any other grain that we eat today: be it rice, wheat or newer health fads like quinoa. “We are replacing millets into many of our recipes for primarily this reason. We have used millets in desserts, main course dishes (replacing rice/quinoa/wheat) and in thick soups. Millets do not alter the taste profile that much so much so, in many dishes it only enhances the flavour,” avers Rashmi Daga, CEO, FreshMenu. Millets are higher in fiber and contains a myriad of beneficial nutrients, as well as being an often overlooked grain that can be used in a variety of ways. “The aim was to take out the guilt associated with eating out and replace it with a feeling of wholesomeness and good health so that one can have a delicious meal without having to worry about cheating on one’s health goals. We wanted to make a nourishing dish where this ingredient could really shine and our Tomato, Chicken and Bok Choy risotto is the result,” says Saurabh Arora, City chef Bangalore, Impresario Entertainment & Hospitality Pvt. Ltd.

Citrus Olive Millet Salad with Feta Crumble (Veg) from Fresh Menu
Citrus Olive Millet Salad with Feta Crumble (Veg) from Fresh Menu

Now Trending

Millets have almost become a trendy ingredient lately. Millets are indigenous to our diets, especially in south India. They are certainly cheaper, healthier and a local alternative to other super foods that are widely used abroad. “With a growing awareness about millets, people are reviving traditional recipes once again. Also millets are hugely versatile and can be used in a number of applications from sweets, breads, savoury dishes and more. Millets are used to bind, to provide a crunchy coating on the fried chicken, to make biscuits for a dessert, to make taco shells, as a salad – the uses are extensive,” says Chef Chirag Makwana, Sous Chef Toast & Tonic. “Millets have greater nutritional value and are rich in proteins apart from largely grown the organic way. Some millets like foxtail are rich in zinc while Ragi is rich in calcium therefore, it is recommended to consume different types of millets so that you get holistic nutrition,” says Surya Shastry, Managing Director, Phalada Agro Research Foundation Pvt. Ltd. So well get ready to give your plate a millet makeover – you will not regret it.

Multigrain Sevpuri, Avocado Salsa (Recipe courtesy: Punjab Grill)

Multigrain Sevpuri -Avocado-Chutney-Punjab-Grill
Multigrain Sevpuri -Avocado-Chutney-Punjab-Grill

Ingredients:

Multigrain papdi                       1/2cup

Salt                                          to taste

Sev                                           1/2tbsp

Avocado                                   1/3 cup

Jalapeno                                  1/2tbsp

Onion                                       1/2tbsp

Tomato                                     1/2tbsp

Potato                                      1tbsp

Sprouts                                    1/2tbsp

Mint chutney                            1/2tbsp

Sonth chutney                          1/2tbsp

Lime juice                                 1/2tbsp

Coriander                                1/2tbsp

Method

For multigrain sevpuri:

Combine all the ingredients in a deep bowl, mix well and knead into a firm dough using enough water. Divide the dough into 24 equal portions and roll each portion into a (1½”) diameter circle. Prick them using a fork at regular intervals. Grease a baking tray with oil and bake them in a pre-heated oven at 200°c (400°f) for 10 minutes, turning them once after 5 minutes.

For avocado salsa:

Place red onion in a strainer or sieve and rinse under cool water to remove harsh bite. Drain well. Add to a mixing bowl along with diced tomatoes, jalapeños and avocados.

In a separate small mixing bowl whisk together olive oil, lime juice, garlic, salt and pepper until mixture is well blended. Pour mixture over avocado mixture, add cilantro then gently toss mixture to evenly coat.

Kangni Di Khichdi (Recipe courtesy: Punjab Grill)

Kangni Di Khichdi - Punjab Grill
Kangni Di Khichdi – Punjab Grill

Ingredients:

Foxtail Millet (Kangni) 1/4 cup

Yellow Moong dal 1/2 tbsp

Carrots, diced 2 tbsp

French beans, chopped 2 tbsp

Peas 2 tbsp

Onion, chopped 3 tbsp

Tomato, chopped 3 tbsp

Green chili, slit 2

Ginger, chopped 1/4 inch piece

Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp

Cumin seeds 1/4 tsp

Turmeric powder 1/8 tsp or 1 pinch

Curry powder 1/2 tsp

Curry leaves 5

Asafoetida 1 pinch

Water 1+1/2 cup

Salt to taste

Oil or ghee 1 tbsp

Instructions:

Heat a pan. Add foxtail millet and dry roast over low flame for 1 – 2 mins. It should be hot to your touch. Transfer to a bowl. Add moong dal to the pan and dry roast it for 10-20 seconds. Transfer it to the same bowl.

Heat a pressure pan with oil. Temper with mustard seeds and asafoetida. When the mustard splutter, add cumin seeds and let it sizzle.

Add onions and cook till it turns translucent. Add tomato, ginger and sauté for a few seconds. Add chopped vegetables, green chilies, curry leaves, peas and mix well. Add turmeric powder, curry powder, dry roasted foxtail millet, yellow moong dal and give a quick mix.

Add water, salt, mix well, close the cooker and cook for 3 whistles over low flame. After the pressure is released, open the cooker and mash gently. Millet khichdi is ready. Serve hot with more ghee drizzled on top with curd raita or pickle.

This story appeared in the Sep 22 issue of Tribune Trends here:

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