Millet is birdseed right?! No,nononononononono. We see it more as future of food and it certainly makes a tidy casserole. Millet can be creamy and fluffy, sweet and savoury, roasted or steamed like cous cous (although gluten free). It is a hugely versatile grain and one that we peck at regularly. We reckon Millet also has a bad rap due to the sub-standard outdoor equipment shop (named ‘Millets’) that has tried to steal some this wonder grains glory.
This is one of those substantial veggie dishes which makes me think of old fashioned vegetarian fare from the Cranks days (one of the first veggie restaurant chains in the UK, sadly now closed, but there is one left in Totnes I believe, fighting the good fight). We have a load of Cranks recipe books from the ’70’s and ’80’s in the kitchen where I work and I love to leaf through their worn pages and pick out some proper golden oldies. Most are simple and hearty, I love their simplicity, it feels like honest food. This casserole is a perfect, quick, one pot wonder for a chilly autumn eve. If I was a mother of many children (and lived in a shoe!) this is the type of dish I’d make every Tuesday or Wednesday……Its even a little bit pretty, with striking colours. Not something you associate with the word ‘casserole’.
I’d had a busy day cooking for quite particular meditators at the retreat centre (it’s a lovely place called Trigonos) and was not exactly in the mood for more pot and pan bashing. Jane stepped in and whipped up this little beauty in a flash and it was a very comforting, wholesome dish, filled with the joys of early autumn and millet. Millet is a superstar, see the ‘Foodie Fact’ below for the many reasons why.
Cooking grains, especially slightly odd ones like millet, can be tricky at first. Once you’ve mastered a few techniques, millet is simple to prepare, not dissimilar to rice but even sweeter and a tad nuttier. Here are some ways we like to go about it:
Tips on Cooking Millet
There are three main ways to treat millet. Always rinse it first and leave to soak for a couple of minutes, picking out any weird looking things that float to the top.
Fluffy – mix one part millet to two and a half parts water in a pan and bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 25 minutes. This will result in light fluffy grains, something like a rice with bells on.
Mashed – follow the steps above, but stir regularly adding water as you go. Keep stirring and adding little splashed of water until you have your desired ‘mash’ consistency.
Toasty – In a dry saucepan on medium heat, toast the millet gently for around 7 minutes, stirring regularly until the turn a darker shade of gold. Then add the water, cover and cook for 25 minutes.
I generally like to add just twice the amount of water to millet which cooks the millet, but gives it a little more bite. Millet is so versatile, one of its many amazing traits (WE LOVE MILLET!!!!)
Getting the best from your birdseed (I mean millet)
Millet swells up nicely, roughly the same volume as rice. If you have leftovers, it makes for a great alternative in Britain’s new favourite dish, Tabouleh or any cous cous/ quinoa style awesome salad. You can also mix leftover millet with milk, warm and serve for breakfast as a porridge sub (adding your favourite adornments). I also like to make millet Halwa, using it instead of the traditional semolina. I find millet more flavoursome. Millet will aslo make the best burgers/ falafels, it has a slight stickiness to it, espcially if you cook it like mash. There is also the option of grinding your millet into flour (use a coffee grinder or a decent food processor) and add it to bread/cake/muffin recipes, it makes for a mean gluten free flatbread.
Jane is enjoying her new cookbook, The Mystic Cookfire by Veronika Sophia Robinson, a mighty tome overflowing with pot bubblin’ recipes and a huge amount of wonderful guidance regarding a holistic, vibrant approach in the kitchen and in life generally. I bought it for Janes birthday and since then we’ve tried a few of the lip-smacking recipes and love ‘em. If we were dishing out marks out of 5, we’d give it a 4.9999999999999999999999999. I believe this recipe resembles the ‘Carrot and Courgette Casserole’ in T.M.C.
We have been revelling in the weather of late and Beach House has been bathed in sun for three days now. THREE DAYS OF SUN. So much, we don’t know what to do with it all. If only we could bottle it for January time! Dad’s here and revels in a good feed, we’ve been picnicking in the garden, what we call a ‘Fridge Clearing Tapas Adventure’. Random jars, packets and potions appear on a chopping board and then we go and sit in the long grass and if you’re Jane, paint rocks, if you’re Dad, drink wine and if you’re me, do both.
All of these ingredients came in our veg box this weeks from Pippa and John in Bethel (few valleys to the East-ish). Its fully organic and this situation always brings smiles to our bellies and faces, we even topped it with parsley from the garden for that extra homegrown vibe.
You could use any variation of vegetables with this recipe, just make sure that they will cook evenly (harder vegetables will need cutting thinner than softer ones). Soggy veg is simply unacceptable behavior!!!! Millet absorbs alot of liquid, you may prefer this dish served with a little soya yoghurt on the side, mix freshly chopped herbs and a little lemon juice into the yoghurt an even better version appears.
How to handle a cob
Sweetcorn is one of my favourite autumn treats. They are probably best roasted or steamed whole and gnawed at like a content doormouse, but sometimes the cob just gets in the way and you want to spread those kernels for extra YUM! The technique goes like this; stand the cob on the stem end, holding it firmly between thumb, index and middle finger, bring a sharp knife, in sawing motions down the cob, cutting evenly at the base of the kernels. They should come off in a lovely corn sheath, you then simply twist the cob around slightly and continue your merry sawing until all kernels are liberated. This takes a little practice and please watch those lovely digits. There is no comparison here with sweetcorn from tins, they are two very different shades of delicious-ness.
P.S. – Dear Brits, you know how we generally use cups. Soz. Its just so much easier than weighing things out in grams. Is this a pain for you to convert?
The Bits – For 4
2 tbs olive oil
2 medium carrots (sliced into thin batons)
1 small red onion
1 small red cabbage or half a medium sized one (sliced)
2 corns on the cobs (kernels removed using a sharp knife – technique mentioned above)
1 cup millet
1/4 cup sultanas
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
2 2/3 cups good vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 teas ground coriander
1 teas cinnamon
1/2 teas smoked paprika
Large pinch of cayenne pepper (more if you like a big chilli kick)
1 teas ground ginger
2/3 teas ground cumin
1 teas sea salt (to taste)
Optional Tasty Extra
2 tbs light tahini (mixed with 2 tbs water – stirred in at the end)
1 handful of fresh leafy green herbs (coriander or parsley will work well)
Warm the olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan or a casserole dish (hob friendly). Add the onion and fry for 5 minutes, then add the carrots, corn and cabbage. Fry and stir for 3 minutes, then add the millet, seeds, sultanas, salt and spices, pouring over the vegetable stock. Warm an oven to 180oC, pour into a casserole dish, pop a lid on and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the carrots are softened and the millet is cooked and fluffy. Try some, if its slightly ‘chalky’ when bitten, give it another 5 minutes.
Alternatively, if the oven is not on, opt for the pan-casserole, a Beach House approved phenomenon which saves energy. Basically, follow the above method, but simply pop a lid on the saucepan and leave to simmer for 15-20 minutes.
If the millet has absorbed all of your gorgeous stock and you feel its a bit dry, simply pour in a splash warm water (from the kettle is best), stirring as you go. Until you reach your ideal texture.
Sprinkle over some fresh leafy herbs and a drizzle of olive oil. We have also stirred light tahini into this dish, which is amazing! We served ours with a light green salad.
Millet has been around since we dropped down from the trees and started wandering around. It is very popular in African and in India they make roti out of ground millet. It is much more widely consumed outside of Western countries and in India especially, is making a real comeback. It seems that we turned our back on millet, opting for what seemed like more appealing grain varieties, specifically rice and wheat. Most countries in the West ate millet before we discovered corn and potatoes in Latin America.
Millet is not so common, but you’ll always find it in your friendly local health/ wholefood store in the grain section (although it is actually a seed). It is worth the extra effort and we admit to being millet hoarders, we can never buy just one bag of the stuff.
Millet is high in magnesium which makes it good for the heart, like oats, and can also help to fend off migraines and asthma. It is high in fibre and also contains phyto nutrients (like antioxidants), especially lignans (very good guys).
Add to all of this the fact that Millet is completely gluten free and grows very well in the U.K. we surely have a contender for the future of allergy friendly, nutritious grain of the future.
Its also cheap. Cheep!