With lifestyle changes, people getting more health-conscious. Whoever said millets were a poor man’s grains, needs to think again. The good ol’ coarse grains or millets are now back in kitchens in most homes.
Millets include jowar (great millet), ragi (finger millet), korra (foxtail millet), arke (kodo millet) and sama (little millet) are available in the form of grains and flour forms in supermarkets. Millets may look coarse and unappealing, but are packed with nutrients and health benefits and are versatile too. Apart from nutritional benefits, now technology has made it possible to process these millets which was not possible earlier.
People are thus celebrating local produce and turning to their backyards to see what is available or even forgotten. They have taken it upon themselves to revive traditional ingredients like ancient grains and millets and reacquaint guests with these.
The changing lifestyle patterns of consumers, who are keen on staying fit is the key reason for these grains to have made a comeback. Almost all of these “pack a punch” when it comes to a nutritive chart, as these are much superior to wheat or rice, which has been the staple.
The choices today are infinite – buckwheat, quinoa, bulgur wheat, barley, nachni or ragi, rajgira, bajra. These can be incorporated in a myriad exciting ways, along with other ingredients, into one’s diet, to inculcate variety.
Nachni or Ragi has always been around for the longest time, but, this millet has suddenly acquired a new status in health-conscious India. A great source of calcium, magnesium, iron, protein and fibre, this finger millet is now in demand. Ragi, which is usually difficult to digest, should be soaked, sprouted and dried, prior to milling into atta, to improve its nutrient absorption.
From ragi upma to ragi rotis and even cookies and halwa, this multipurpose millet is being used in varied dishes, both sweet and savoury. Ragi dosa, dumplings, pancakes and porridge are other dishes, one can prepare with ragi.
One of the oldest millets and perhaps the cheapest, bajra or pearl millet, is completely gluten free and thus beneficial to those suffering from celiac disease. Thalipeeth, bhakri and theplas are not all that you can make with this millet. Dhoklas, chaklis, upma, khichu and even ladoos are what this millet can be used for. Traditionally, Kambu Sadam or bajra cooked like rice, was consumed with raw onions and green chillies in every home in Tamil Nadu. Thus, people have also taken to bajra once again, but in several new avatars.
Buckwheat or kuttu too is preferred by many, owing to the health benefits it endows. A pseudo grain, known for its nutty flavour, it lends itself to several dishes across cuisines. Buckwheat flour is mixed with wheat flour to make Japanese soba noodles. Being gluten free, it is used for pancakes, crepes, rotis, cookies and even mixed with other flours and millets to alter the texture.
Millets can be used on their own in dishes as well as added to other ingredients. Add a small amount of millets to idli or dosa batter or a roti dough. One can also use millets along with oats, whole wheat and jaggery to make cookies and ladoos, as well as add sprouted millets in salads.
And it is not only in the grain form that millets are being used. Flours of these millets too are being incorporated into the daily diets. Beige coloured Sorghum flour, for example, considered to be “sweet,” softly textured and mildly flavoured, low in glycaemic index, high in fibre, gluten free is now a popular ingredient easily available.
Ironically, once upon a time, an Indian kitchen included a single canister of flour. Today, supermarkets stock myriad options, reflecting increased consumer demand for diversity and thus various flours make way into the kitchens. Each kind of flour has a different nutrition profile and cooking or baking qualities and thus, blending these grains and flours is important as it tones down flavour profiles, yet providing the nutritional benefits.
With evolved palates and matured taste buds, guests in Hotels maybe seeking the exotic, but are also ready to allow chefs to let loose their creative side and churn out dishes that they term unusual or exciting.