Experiment with millets in sweet as well as savoury dishes. Photo: Danya Dhanak
Quinoa vs millet
Quinoa, the South American grain, isn’t the only nutrient and protein-rich superfood. We have a variety of millets that are native to our country, and can rival quinoa’s nutritional benefits with their goodness of protein, nutrients and fibre.
Eating whole grains improves your digestive system and keeps you full longer as they pack in dietary fibre lacking in refined flour. But their positives include more than just the health benefits; more importantly, each has a distinct flavour and texture.
Sorghum (jowar), finger millet (ragi/nachni), pearl millet (bajra) and more are all excellent sources of iron, calcium, protein, dietary fibre and vitamin B6. They are easily available at supermarkets in India, both regular and organically farmed varieties and in whole grain and flour form. In addition to their English names, millets are known differently by local names, and used for different purposes across India.
Cooking with millets
I’ve written about using millet flour to make rotis, as made traditionally in Gujarati and Rajasthani food. In South India, finger millet flour (ragi or nachni) is used in idlis, dosas and mixed millets are used to make upma. While you may not have necessarily considered it before, the nutty, earthy flavour of millets works well in international foods as well like burger patties and salads and even in baking cookies, cakes and breads.
Rather than going all out, start small and experiment.
1. If a recipe for cookies or cake calls for 100g of all purpose flour or maida, try swapping in 20-30g of finger millet flour instead.
2. Add a few tablespoons of cooked whole millet to your salad instead of quinoa.
3. As the mornings start to get cooler, make an oatmeal and mixed millet porridge topped with nuts and honey for a warm, comforting, filling breakfast.
This recipe for crispy spinach and foxtail millet patties as a snack served with creamy Greek yoghurt or a burger with lettuce, tomato, onion and your favorite add-ins.
1. On medium heat, sauté the chopped onion and garlic in 1 tbsp oil for 2-3 minutes. Add the spinach and lemon juice, combine and sauté for another minute. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked millet, spinach mixture (leave aside the water released from sautéing the spinach), red chilli powder and salt.
3. If you are using an egg to bind, whisk the egg and add it into the millet-spinach mixture. If you are using a potato to bind, mash the potato and add it into the millet-spinach mixture.
4. Mix well and form patties from the mixture about 2 inches in diameter. If the patties still don’t hold together well, add 3-4 tbsp of breadcrumbs or oats.
5. In a wide pan, add one tbsp of oil and cook on medium heat for 4-5 minutes on each side or until crispy.
The author recently moved back to India after studying at the University of Michigan and working at Goldman Sachs in New York. She shares recipes and travel tips on her blogThe India Edition.