Learning how to cook millet will add a useful ingredient to your gluten free diet. But what is millet?
This small, round, yellow seed is easily digested and one of the least allergenic "grains" available. It is often referred to as a grain because its texture, when cooked, resembles other grains. I will use these terms interchangably on this page.
For one third of the world's population it has been a staple food for thousand of years. However, many others have never heard of it, let alone cooked it. Those of us on the gluten free diet are perhaps more adventurous and prepared to experiment with naturally gluten free grains and seeds such as millet.
So what can you use it for?
The seeds can be ground into a mild flavoured gluten free flour that doesn't overpower other ingredients in recipes such as millet bread.
In its seed form it can be added to soups, stews or casseroles as a replacement for pearl barley (which is not gluten free). It serves to thicken the food and also add nutrition.
It can be served as an accompaniment, in the same manner as couscous or bulgar wheat, which are not gluten free. In fact any savoury meal where you would use rice you can substitute millet, for example in pilaff, paella, and risotto.
Millet flakes are also available, making it easy to prepare porridge for a gluten free breakfast option.
One cup, or 7 ounces, of raw millet would serve 4-6 people when cooked, as an accompaniment to a meal. If you are following a recipe that was created with rice as the main grain then use a similar amount of millet.
Keep in mind that the seeds will fluff up to about 4 times the original amount once they are cooked.
Before cooking millet you may like to soak it in boiling water for about 10 minutes. This will reduce the cooking time.
Alternatively, you can toast the seeds in a pan without any fat for a few minutes first, to enhance the mild, nutty flavour.
Measure out your required quantity of seeds and place in a saucepan with 3-4 cups of water or stock (don't add too much!). Bring to the boil.
Turn down the heat and do either of the following, depending on the texture you require...
Serve straight away or cool and refrigerate for later.
Cook in a similar manner to the fluffy millet above, but use a mix of half water, half milk (or milk substitute if you are lactose intolerant).
You can add flavourings such as vanilla essence, grated nutmeg or ground cinnamon during the cooking process.
Serve with sugar, honey, dried or fresh fruit.
Learning how to cook millet is so simple you might want to prepare a larger batch and use up the leftovers in other ways.
Fluffy leftoever millet is ideal as a base for a salad. Cooked, it has a similar consistency to the "off limits couscous" so you can substitute millet for that in any recipe. Add some curry flavourings to spice up your salad, along with raw or cooked, cold veggies of your choice.
With the addition of an egg and some fresh herbs, you can make croquettes to fry and serve with your next meal.
You can even make a dip or spread! Recipe below.
Millet grain is highly nutritious. It is a good source of protein, and if served with pulses (dried peas or beans) it makes a well balanced protein meal.
Another one of the benefits of millet is that it is a good source of magnesium, helpful for asthma sufferers and for those for whom migraines are a problem. Magnesium is also known to lower your blood pressure thereby reducing the risk of a heart attack.
On the same theme, millet is rich in phytochemicals, in particular Phytic acid, which is believed to be helpful in reducing cholesterol.
So, unless you have thyroid problems, learning how to cook millet is certainly worth while.
Millet, of course, is only one of the nutritious grains that you can use in your diet in place of wheat.