Urged by India, the United Nations has declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets. It views this as “an opportunity to raise awareness of, and direct policy attention to the nutritional and health benefits of millets and their suitability for cultivation under adverse and changing climatic conditions.”
Millets as grass seeds / ancient grains have been in use in India for centuries, and are now seeing a massive comeback as all things old are becoming new again there. At least ten types are in common use: Amaranth (rajgira), finger millet (ragi), sorghum (jowar), buckwheat (kuttu), pearl millet (bajra), foxtail millet (kangni), barnyard millet (sanva), kodo millet (kodra), little millet (kutki/sama), and proso millet (chena or punarva).
Millets are actually a whole family of seeds, all of them nutritionally dense.
As a “superfood” they are a powerhouse of minerals, vitamins and proteins. They are naturally gluten-free, and also have anti-inflammatory properties. This helps them improve both your gut health and your bone health.
No surprise they’re becoming popular again as a healthy grain, now that we’re moving away from rice and wheat.
In fact, Indian foodies are saying, move over millet dosas and rotis, try the chips, noodles, pizza bases, murukkus, chaklis and so much else, made of millets! (And wash them down with a swig of millet beer.)
India may be the largest producer of millets in the world, but it is not unknown in Australia either. Sorghum for instance is Australia’s third largest grain crop (the largest summer crop grown here). While it was mainly grown as feed crop, it is now trending as a health food – its flour and cereal biscuits easily available.
A huge benefit is that not only are millets nutritious, they are also wonderfully sustainable, given they require less water and fertiliser to grow, and can even flourish in arid conditions.
What’s holding us back from totally loving millets?
In this the International Year of Millets, check out the new ways to embrace the ancient grains, with these easy recipes below.
Ragi or nachni is a good alternative to milk for vegans, as it has high calcium content. You can bake with it, make pancakes, and even have it as ragi malt. It has a huge amount of fibre and helps manage weight loss, insomnia and anxiety. This millet recipe is different from the usual run-of-the-mill millet recipes.
½ cup ragi flour
¼ tsp baking soda
2 tbsp raw sugar
½ tbsp flax seed powder in 2 tbsp water
1 tbsp ghee
Pinch of salt
Mix ragi flour and baking soda in a mixing bowl.
Add ghee, a pinch of salt and flax seed meal.
Mix all ingredients to form a soft dough. Add more ragi flour if it’s too wet.
Make small balls of dough, press them into flat biscuits/cookies.
Place these on a baking tray. Option, garnish with nuts of choice.
Preheat the oven for 10 mins at 160 degrees C.
Bake at 160 degrees C (fan forced) for 18-20 minutes.
Let it cool on the rack and store in an airtight container.
BUCKWHEAT CHOCOLATE MUFFINS
Buckwheat or kuttu is a fantastic gluten-free flour to cook with. It is a great alternative to plain (all-purpose) flour or maida for baking. You can use it to make pancakes, bread and cinnamon rolls. Crepes, waffles, muffins and brownies get a great texture with buckwheat. The recipe provided here yields 5-6 muffins.
1 tbsp chia seed meal soaked in 1/2 cup water.
1 large ripe banana (1/2 cup mashed banana)
¼ cup sunflower oil
¼ cup raw sugar
¾ cup buckwheat flour/kuttu flour
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
¼ cup milk / any vegan milk
½ tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp hemp seeds or any other seeds for garnish.
Mix powdered chia seeds with water using a spoon. Set aside for 5 minutes.
Mash the bananas using a fork or a potato masher.
In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, oil and mashed bananas.
Add chia seed mix with milk.
Mix buckwheat flour with baking soda, baking powder and add to mixing bowl.
Mix the batter, until all ingredients are mixed. Do not overmix.
Pour the batter in muffin liners or a greased muffin tray. Garnish with seeds.
Preheat the oven at 170 degrees C for 10 minutes.
Bake for 25 or until a toothpick comes clean.
The ancient wholegrain sorghum or jowar is anti-inflammatory and has almost three times the protein as quinoa. It is a good source of fibre and helps lower LDL cholesterol. Here’ perhaps the easiest of millet recipes ever!
1/3 cup Sorghum/jowar grain
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved.
1 cup cucumber, cubed.
½ apple/cucumber, diced.
½ cup pomegranate seeds
½ cup sweet peppers, chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook sorghum in 2 cups of water until soft. Drain excess water, keep it aside.
Toss all ingredients with the lemon juice, salt and pepper.