Millets form a family of ancient grains that are very good for us. They are rich in fibre and nutrients such as iron, calcium and magnesium. Not only are millets extremely nutrient-dense, they are also very environment-friendly as they need very little water to grow unlike rice and modern varieties of wheat.
India knows how to eat millets
In India we have been eating millets for centuries, in various forms. As rotis, bhakris, mudde (dumplings), upma, dosais, idlis, porridge, dalia and as millet rice. In fact, one of our traditionally recognised foods accepted in fasts includes a millet - barnyard millet, also called 'vrat ke chawal'.
So what are the secrets to unlocking this powerhouse of nutrients?
Yes, there are a few practices you need to follow in order to gain the maximum benefits from these super grains. Read on!
Make sure you follow these tips to make the most of your millets!
1. Soak millets for 6 hours at least
Soaking the millets overnight ensures that you break down the phytic acid in them. Phytic acid impairs the absorption of the good guys -- minerals like iron, zinc and calcium and makes the digesting millets much easier on your tummy. So don't forget to soak millets overnight.
2. Always cook millets in excess water
Most people are confused about how to cook millets. What should be the proportion of water, will they be sticky or will they be fluffy with each grain separate the way basmati rice would be. My answer is they will be fluffy and separate and wonderfully soft at the same time... however, don't compare grains. Can wheat be like rice? Can rice be like quinoa? Can quinoa be like oats? Obviously not.
So eat and enjoy millets for what they are... do not expect them to be what they can't ever be. Your pure white basmati rice, polished till it looks like a white pearl has very little good going for it. Millets, on the other hand, are super for you. So expect them to be different.
Cook your soaked millets in excess water - more like 8 times the water - till they are soft and fluffy. Spoon out the excess scum that floats to the surface, like foam. Finally, taste the millet to make sure the grain is cooked through.
NB: The excess water can be retained to make millet kanji, an excellent probiotic!
3. Preferably, use a single variety at one time
Ayurveda recommends using one millet grain at a time... and for the most part that's how Indians have always eaten them. It's easier on the system to deal with one grain rather than mix them up and force our bodies to deal with the different constituents present in different grains. (Except for a few notable and very tasty exceptions.) Which we will come to, in due course!
4. Add finely chopped or julienned vegetables
Not only will it add even more nutrients to your millet dish, it will also add vibrant colour and taste! Millets don't look as good as rice does... to our eyes, biased by habit. So add a riot of colours and cheat your brain into loving how millets look.
We must WANT to eat the food we cook. It MUST always look appetising and tasty... even before we put it in our mouths. So, here's your cheat code on how to make a Miss India out of the humble millet!
5. Always temper millets with oil or A2 ghee
Millets are dry and increase vaata, says Ayurveda. The remedy is to add a wonderful tadka with jeera and kadhi patta or simply, add a generous dollop of A2 cow ghee to your plate of millets. Not only does it make millets Ayurveda compliant, it also makes them even more tasty... and who can argue with that!
Use these 5 tips to get the tastiest millets you can cook! They're tasty, they look fabulous, they are Ayurveda compliant and they unlock the nutrients in millets so your body can use them best!
"Annadaata, sukhi bhava!"
Which oils should you use to temper millets?
It all depends on your taste. Any of the three main oils used across India - mustard, groundnut or sesame can be used to temper millets. You can also use coconut oil.
You can also use a good quality A2 Bilona cow ghee to temper or season your plate of millets. I would also recommend a spritzing of lemon! Nothing like lemon to make everything taste good.