Millet is one of the least allergenic and easily digested grains available to you today.
In fact it has been around for thousands of years and it is a staple food for one third of the world's population. It is especially popular in Africa and Asia, but here in the West it is sadly often thought of as only fit for bird seed or cattle food. What a waste!
So how can you recognize millet? It is a small, round, yellow grain that looks rather like a bead with a hole in the middle. Only it isn't actually a hole, just a dark mark on one side of the grain.
It is also sold as millet flakes, (as shown right) which can be used to make porridge.
Anyone can learn how to cook millet. It is easy and quick. But there are some things you can do before you start that will reap benefits.
Firstly you can reduce the cooking time if you soak the millet grain in boiling water for about 10 minutes before cooking it. Once it has soaked, you just drain it and then cook it as follows.
You can also dry-fry the grain for a few minutes before cooking, which will enhance the mild, nutty flavour.
So how much millet do you need? If serving as an accompaniment to a meal you would need about 1 cup, or 7oz, millet for 4-6 portions. Remember that millet will fluff up to 4 times the original amount by the time it is cooked.
Put the cup of millet in a saucepan with 3-4 cups of water or stock, and bring it to the boil. Then turn down the heat and do one of two things, depending on the texture you require for the finished millet...
If you want fluffy millet, then put the lid on and simmer for about 20-25 minutes without lifting the lid.
If you want creamy millet, more like a risotto, then leave the lid off and stir frequently, adding more water at regular intervals.
So what can you use it for?
You can add millet to soups, stews or casseroles, just like you would pearl barley. It will help to thicken the meal and also add nutrition.
Or you can use it in place of rice in a pilaff or paella.
Millet grain is often ground into a type of flour and used in a gluten free diet for baked goods such as bread or muffins.
Now you know how to cook millet and have learned how versatile it is, you may want to do what I do, and cook extra to use later. I like to use the leftovers within 24 hours.
If I have cooked millet as an accompaniment to an evening meal for the family, then I will cover what is left, and use it in the morning as a breakfast. Just heat it with some milk and honey and sprinkle some cinnamon on top for a tasty porridge.
If we have eaten it at lunchtime then I may use the remains for supper by making a delicious dip or spread for toast. Check my millet recipes page for instructions on how to make this (link at top of page).
Got an egg in the fridge? And some fresh herbs? Then add them to leftover millet and roll into croquettes or shape into burgers and fry them for a quick supper served with fresh veggies.
Millet grain is highly nutritious. It is a good source of protein, and if served with pulses (dried peas or beans) it makes a well balanced protein meal.
Another one of the benefits of millet is that it is a good source of magnesium, helpful for asthma sufferers and for those for whom migraines are a problem. Magnesium is also known to lower your blood pressure thereby reducing the risk of a heart attack.
On the same theme, millet is rich in phytochemicals, in particular Phytic acid, which is believed to be helpful in reducing cholesterol.
So, unless you have thyroid problems, learning how to cook millet is certainly worth while.
Millet, of course, is only one of the nutritious grains that you can use in your diet in place of wheat.
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