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A Jewel in Iranian Millet!

September 4, 2016

iranian rice

Before rice was widely consumed in Asia, it is thought that millet was the staple grain in this region. It is one of the hardiest grains and is therefore a staple food in regions with poor soils where other grains will not grow at all (eg. parts of India, Africa, China and Russia).

Millet is actually a seed, originally cultivated in the dry climates of Africa and northern China since the Neolithic Era. (A few years ago, archaeologists discovered a 4000-year old bowl of millet noodles in northwestern China!) In time, millet spread throughout the world; the Romans and Gauls made porridge from it, and in the Middle Ages millet was more widely eaten than wheat. It is mentioned in the Old Testament as an ingredient for bread.

Today, millet continues to be a staple for a third of the world’s population. Ground millet is used in flatbreads, such as Indian roti and Ethiopian injera. Teff is actually classified as a variety of millet. In Eastern Africa, millet is used to make beer. It is also an ingredient in Eastern European fermented drinks and porridges.

In the western world, millet has mostly been relegated to bird and livestock feed. However, interest in the grain has had a resurgence as it is gluten-free and easily digestible. It has a good source of magnesium, fibre, iron, folate and B vitamins. It does contain phytochemicals including phytic acid and saponins so is best rinsed (or activated) before use.

There are many varieties of millet; the primary types are called pearl, foxtail, proso, and finger. Yellow proso is the kind most often found at health food stores. It has been hulled and looks very much like raw couscous. It has a delicate nutty flavour and, depending on how it is cooked, a texture that can be crunchy or soft.

I have only really used millet as a flour where I mix it with other flours to provide a different protein and texture to my gluten-free flour mix.  But I cooked it as I would quinoa and it turned out similar to couscous!

I believe that if you toast it first you get a nuttier flavour – and I admit that I like it better than quinoa as the flavour is less overpowering – but it’s not as nutritious as quinoa. The longer you cook it, the softer it gets, to the point where you can mash it. I really enjoyed using millet as a whole grain and will do so more in the future – its cheap and works well as a conduit to a gluten-free diet for my non gluten-free family!

This dish is a ‘corrupted’ version of the traditional Persian jewelled rice which I have been wanting to blog about for ages. The traditional recipe is quite complicated and time-consuming, using basmati rice. It is laced with butter and sugar and spices and piled with nuts and dried fruits. In the Middle East it is typically served at weddings or other celebrations. I have simplified it somewhat and also used millet and cauliflower rice for a point of difference.

½ medium cauliflower

100g millet

2 carrots, julienned

70g ghee, butter or olive oil

1 large onion, sliced

6 cardamon pods

1 generous pinch of saffron threads

rind of 2 oranges, julienned

2 teas salt

1 tab honey (or brown rice syrup if vegan)

juice of 1 lemon

1 tab apple cider vinegar

½ teas cinnamon

60g flaked almonds, toasted

80g pistachios, toasted & chopped coarsely

2 tabs raisins or dried cranberries

1 pomegranate, arils only

1 teas orange flower water (optional)

1 bunch dill, chopped

Prepare the cauliflower by chopping on SP 4 until resembling rice size pieces. Add 60g water and cook on 100ºC for 6 minutes REVERSE. Drain and set aside in a wide bowl.

Prepare the millet by adding 900g water & 1 teas salt to the TM bowl with the strainer basket and weighing in 100g millet.  Cook for 17 minutes on SP 3 at VAROMA temperature. Add to the drained cauliflower.

Saute the onion, cardamon pods and saffron in the ghee (or oil) at 100°C for 5 minutes SP slow, REVERSE.

Add the carrots, orange rind and raisins and continue to saute for another 4 minutes, SP slow, REVERSE.

Add the honey, lemon juice, vinegar, salt and orange flower water*. Pour into the cauliflower/millet and mix in the nuts, pomegranate and dill. Serve at warm or at room temperature.

*If you can find them, pick out the cardamon pods, they are not so nice to bite on!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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