Ironically, ancient grains are relatively new to us modern folk. But there is no need to let your unfamiliarity keep you from trying them.
In fact, once you realise just how simple they are to prepare they may very well become weeknight favourites in your kitchen too.
Quinoa. Farro. Teff. Spelt. Kamut. Amaranth. Millet. Some of these are now becoming household names. Did you know that 2013 was officially declared the Year of Quinoa by the United Nations? Clearly we are beginning to realise that these mystery grains from our past are not only nutritious, but more importantly, are quite yummy!
And I am here to assure you that they are also very easy to cook. I can tell you with a straight face, they are all as simple as cooking a batch of rice.
Millet is an ancient grain which has been cultivated for more than 6000 years. Originating in Ethiopia where it is still widely eaten, it is also commonly used in India to make Roti bread. Millet is a gluten free wholegrain and boasts many nutrient dense qualities, such as high amounts of protein, fibre (being a wholegrain), niacin, manganese, and copper. It is also rich in phytonutrients. All these statements won’t mean much to you if you don’t know the benefits of each particular nutrient, so let me give you a very basic rundown; millet is excellent for your digestive system, blood pressure, cardiovascular health, hormone levels and blood sugar levels. If that wasn’t enough, it is also thought to have many anti-cancer properties. It’s low GI also means it keeps you feeling fuller for longer.
Each millet grain is about the same size as quinoa, however millet has a milder taste, quite similar to couscous. It is a great substitute for rice in a pilaf, and works well replacing quinoa or couscous in a salad. It is also very good on its own, with a wedge of butter left to melt and some Parmigiano Reggiano grated on top.
As it has quite a mild buttery taste, you will probably find your kids will also take a shine to it!
Wash the millet in a sieve under running water.
Put a heavy based pan on high heat, add the millet and toast for a minute or two.
Add water (1 part millet, 2 parts water) a pinch of salt and bring to the boil.
Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes, or until grains are cooked through.
Place a lid on top a leave to sit for 5 minutes.
Add a splash of olive oil or butter and fluff with a fork – just as you’d do for couscous.
* 1 cup of raw millet will yield just over 3 cups of cooked.
Millet Stuffed Peppers
Try to find smaller capsicums that can stand up on their bases. If you can only find large ones, slice them in half lengthways.
– 4 large or 6 small red and yellow capsicum
– 3 cups of cooked millet (see cooking instructions above)
– 100g goats feta, diced/crumbled small
– handful chopped parsley leaves
– handful currants
– 1 red onion, very finely diced
– splash olive oil
– salt, pepper
Preheat oven to 170 degrees C.
Start by sautéing the red onion with a splash of olive oil over medium heat. Once translucent, remove from heat and to the bowl of cooked millet. Add the currants, chopped parsley, feta and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and salt and pepper as desired – I like quite a bit.
Wash the capsicum and chop their tops off. Leave stem in place but remove the core and seeds from the underside.
If using larger capsicums, slice them in half lengthways, as mentioned above.
Spoon the millet mixture into the peppers, pop their lids on, and place them in a deep baking dish lined with foil or baking paper. Cover them tightly with foil and bake slowly, for about an hour, or until the capsicums are tender.
Serves 4 – 6