The pandemic has made many find answers to lingering questions about food—what’s on your plate and what is its impact? As people seek to eat with care, they’ve added millets, which are high in nutrition and require less water to cultivate than rice and wheat, to their diets in larger quantities.
Jowar, bajra, amaranth, foxtail, pearl and buckwheat are some of the millets that have been integral to regional Indian kitchens for decades, but in the past year, they’ve even entered homes that swore by rice and wheat.
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To understand this primacy of rice and wheat, one needs to take a step back to the Green Revolution when high-yielding varieties of wheat became popular to make India self sufficient in food grains. While looking for healthier options, urban Indians were quick to adopt quinoa and kale but millets got left behind. Not any more.
Last month, the Sambalpur University in Odisha applied for a patent for a millet-based pancake mix. On social media, nutritionist and food experts like Sangeeta Khaana and Shalini Rajani conduct popular millet-based cooking workshops. In her book Fix It With Food, nutritionist Kavita Devgan suggests ways to infuse meals with millets. Amaranth grains can be turned into a breakfast porridge, barley can be stir fried with mushrooms and garlic, and buckwheat grains can be thrown into soups and salads.
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Mumbai-based chef Natasha Gandhi says mixed millet granola is also a healthy option for those recovering from covid-19. The founder of House of Millets, she is known for her gluten-free cakes made with flours like jowar and ragi topped with seasonal specials such as strawberries and mangoes. For Mint readers, she shared two recipes that use millets and are easy to create at home.
Gluten-free millet samosas
1/2 cup jowar flour
1/2 cup water
Pinch of salt
For samosa filling
1 tbsp ghee
1/2 tsp whole coriander seeds
1/4 tsp whole cumin
2 boiled potatoes, mashed
1/4 cup boiled peas
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp amchur powder or chaat masala
1/4 cup chopped coriander
Salt as per taste
For samosa filling:
1. In a pan, melt ghee. Add coriander seeds and whole cumin, saute for 30 seconds.
2. Add the mashed potatoes, peas, powdered spices and salt. Saute for 4-5 mins
3. Add chopped coriander and mix well. Let it cool.
For the samosas:
1. Bring the water to a rolling boil. Add salt.
2. Tip in the jowar flour and whisk vigorously using a spoon or a whisk. This is the most important step. It helps the flour to cook partially and adds adequate hydration for efficient nutrient absorption and better digestion.
3. Cover and keep aside for 15-20 mins.
4. When the dough has cooled slightly, knead well. Divide it into small balls.
5. To make the samosa covering, take a dough ball, place it on a parchment paper, roll into a thin round shape like a poori. If the dough sticks to the parchment paper or the rolling pin, dust some flour.
6. Using a knife, cut the circle into two halves. Take one half and join the edges to form a cone.
7. Stuff with the samosa filling.
8. Seal the edges by applying some water
9. Air fry or bake for 20 mins at 180 degree celsius. You can shallow fry them too.
10. Serve hot with chutney, chillies and chai.
Notes: Jowar flour is creamish in colour and resembles refined flour. It has a neutral taste which makes it a great choice for samosas. To substitute, use proso or foxtail millet flour.
Amaranth & Jowar Granola
1 cup popped amaranth
1 cup nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds)
1/4 cup popped jowar
1 tbsp ghee/olive oil
2 tbsp jaggery
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp ginger powder
1 tbsp cranberry or raisins
1 tbsp dried rose petals (optional)
1. Place a pan on high flame. Add a smidgen of olive oil.
2. In small batches, add the whole amaranth and whole jowar. They will begin to pop. Once they look like mini popcorn, remove to a bowl and let them rest.
3. Melt the ghee in the pan. Roast the nuts and seeds for 3-4 minutes on low flame.
4. Mix in the popped amaranth and jowar along with the other ingredients.
5. Adjust sweetness as per taste.
6. Let it cool and store in an airtight container.
Top it with yogurt, add to smoothies, milkshakes or kheer, or enjoy plain.
Note: Add roasted rolled oats and dry orange zest for orange-flavoured granola
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