Why you should be eating millet
If people have heard of millet they usually think of bird food when they think of millet. It’s time to change that image of this wonderful gluten-free grain.
Millet feeds more than one-third of the world’s population and is a staple grain in Africa, India, and Asia. Before the introduction of potatoes and corn millet was also a staple grain in Europe, specifically Eastern Europe.
Personally, I think we should be using more millet and reduce our intake of quinoa.
The United States produces quite a bit of millet, so it doesn’t require the “food miles” that quinoa requires since quinoa is shipped from Peru. Millet is able to grow with little water which is of benefit during these times of water scarcity in many areas. It also has a short growing season and tolerates heat. Millet isn’t picky about growing conditions. It will grow in areas of drought and in infertile soils and it will also thrive in areas with more fertile soils and more moisture. This flexible nature of millet makes it a valuable food source since it can grow in conditions where other grain crops would fail.
- It is easy to digest and is gluten-free. What could be better?
- Millet has more essential amino acids than many other cereal grains including rice, barley, wheat oats, and rye. Its protein levels are comparable to wheat and higher than corn.
- Some important nutrients in millet are iron, calcium, zinc, potassium, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, and magnesium.
- Other beneficial nutrients include high amounts of fiber, B-complex vitamins including niacin, folacin, thiamin, and riboflavin.
It’s important to know that millet also contains antinutrients which are compounds that and inhibit your body’s absorption of other nutrients. These compounds can be reduced by soaking the grain overnight in room temperature water, then drain and rinse it before cooking. This technique, along with having a well-balanced diet should reduce or even eliminate the adverse effects.
Millet is a wonderful gluten-free grain that, when you know how to cook it, should be a delicious addition to almost everyone’s repertoire.
Millet is a mild, slightly nutty-flavored grain. It can be cooked to be creamy, as in breakfast porridge or mashed side dish, in a soup, or pilaf style.
Soak the grain
As with all grains, my preference is to soak the millet in four times the amount of water for a minimum of 3 hours up to overnight. Soaking grains makes them more delicious and easier to digest and will remove antinutrient compounds if that is a concern. The longer the grains soak, the shorter the cooking time. Know that you will need to adjust the amount of liquid used to cook depending on how long you soak the grains. The recipes that follow are for millet that has soaked for 3 to 4 hours.
How to cook millet
Millet can pose a bit of difficulty when cooked pilaf style as some of the grains will tend to cook before others. Getting the water level just right is important. Too much water and you will have half mushy grains and some cooked just right and maybe some uncooked. Too little water and you’ll think you are eating bird food! The technique I’ve come up with will help to resolve that problem.
Basic pilaf style millet
- 1 cup millet – soaked for 3 to 4 hours or up to overnight in 4 cups of water
- 2 cups either: Imagine brand No-Chicken Stock, vegetable stock, chicken stock, or water
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Drain the soaked millet in a fine-mesh strainer.
- Place several clean kitchen towels on a cookie sheet, put the millet on the towels, place another towel on top and rub gently to remove some of the moisture.
- Put the stock or water along with a small amount of salt into a small pot and heat till simmering, covered, on medium heat.
- While the cooking liquid is coming to a simmer dry roast the millet in an 8-inch skillet.
- To dry roast:
- Heat the pan a little then put the millet in. Toast the millet, stirring regularly, until it changes color slightly.
- When the millet is hot and the color has changed turn the heat to low. Add the hot liquid. Be careful when you do this since the liquid will suddenly boil up in the pan. Stir gently. Put the lid on the pan and cook for 20 minutes or so, until the millet has cooked. It’s best not to stir while cooking.
- Now your millet is ready to add some nicely sautéed veggies too.
- I like some caramelized onions with a bit of mushroom tossed into the millet once it’s cooked.
Add fresh or dried herbs to the simmering stock, which will add more flavor to the millet.
Add a bit of richness by toasting the millet in coconut oil, olive oil, or ghee. Use 1 to 2 tablespoons oil of your choice.
Spice it up! Put 1 to 2 tablespoons oil of your choice in the skillet and before you add the millet lightly toast your choice of spice such as cumin, cardamom, fennel, and/or coriander. Then add the millet and continue to toast as described in the recipe. Make sure not to burn the spices.
This is a great dish to add a bit of turmeric to. Put ½ teaspoon powdered turmeric into the simmering stock. Turmeric is so good for you and the added yellow color works well in this dish.
Enjoy your millet!