Why millets? Why so much brouhaha over these pseudo cereals? Why is it important in a modern urban diet? Are they good at all? Who should eat millets? Who should not? These and many more facts set out for you here. Read on to know more.
Millets are not cereal grains, so they are called pseudo grains. Millets are smaller grains. They belong to five (or more) different botanical families, but are classified under one name as millets. Millets are grown for bird, animal and human consumption. Factors that go in favour of their cultivation are that they have a short growing season, grow in semi arid regions, (they need very little water) need very little attention. Different countries across the world have been growing and consuming millets for thousands of years. Unfortunately, urban diets have not included millets for about 50 years now.
So what is the good and bad about eating millets? Here, I split it up into its constituents and make it simple for all to understand.
The Carbohydrates - Millets have complex starches in form of amylose and amylopectin. Such a starch can only be digested in cooked form by humans. Since they not easily digestible, they have a low glycemic index. That means they release their sugars into the blood stream in a slow steady fashion. Much like how a sustained release medicine works. There are no highs and lows in blood sugar when you are eating such starches. And yes, you guessed it right: this is great news for diabetics and pretty much everybody else.
The Proteins – After carbohydrates, proteins form the major part of millets. Egg and human milk are considered perfect proteins because they have the best combination of amino acids that the human body needs. When compared to these proteins, most millets are found to have insufficient amino acids to provide all nutrients for infants and growing children. Millets have been found to be deficient mainly in lysine, an essential amino acid. What are amino acids?
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. There are 21 amino acids that form all the proteins ever known. Several of these amino acids are made in the human body. These are called non-essential amino acids because the body can make it on its own. Some of these are called essential amino acids. Why are they called so? Because they are necessary for growth and cell repair but cannot be synthesised in the human body. So they have to come from the food we eat. Lysine is one of these essential amino acids.
Does this mean that millets are not good enough for weaning food? Or to feed growing children? No. Millets are very good for children, when cooked well and when paired with a legume such as mung bean or tuvar dal. Legumes are naturally rich in lysine and by combining them in the same meal ensures that the meal gives complete protein for the growing body. Besides, millets are gluten free as well. So they are a safe bet for all, children, older people or those with gluten allergy.
Look forward to more information and recipes with millets in my forthcoming posts.
Meanwhile, here is a recipe for Jowar Dosai. This recipe is good for beginners who are not sure about how to begin including millets. Millets are great for people who need a gluten–free diet as well. Besides, here, the ground batter is fermented which increases the food’s digestibility as well as increasing the availability of several vitamins and minerals from the grains.
The initial trouble of soaking, grinding and fermenting is well worth the effort. The batter keeps well in the fridge for up to a week. When you have batter ready in the fridge, making dosai for a meal takes only a few minutes. You can choose to make regular size dosai for breakfast, dinner or coin-sized ones for your child’s lunch box.
Preparation Time – 8 hours soaking+1 hour grinding+8 hours fermentation, Cooking Time – 10-15 minutes, Makes – about 20 dosais.
YOU NEED -
COOKWARE - Wet grinder or mixer grinder, Iron skillet/griddle, Big deep dish mixing bowls, ladle, sharp metal spatula
- 1 cup Jowar grains
- 1 cup salem idli rice/boiled rice/raw rice
- 2 tbsp fenugreek seeds
- 2 tbsp urad dal
- 1 heaped tsp salt
- Sesame oil for drizzling over dosais, about 1/4 cup oil
- Measure out all ingredients except salt and oil. Rinse the grains well, Soak overnight. To do this, steep in enough water to cover the grains plus an inch higher.
- The next morning, grind the soaked grains. If using wet grinder, keep sprinkling water every 7-10 minutes. You can use up to 3 cups water for grinding. I grind my batter in a wet grinder. When using jowar grains, it takes longer to grind. About 1 hour of grinding gives me a smooth batter. When the batter looks smooth, add salt, mix well and remove to a deep bowl. Allow plenty of head room for fermentation. Leave overnight for fermentation.
- The batter is ready when it has risen to double volume.
- Heat up an iron skillet/dosa tawa. Smear oil all over to grease.
- Pour a ladleful batter in the centre of skillet. Spread with back of ladle in concentric circles. Drizzle few drops of oil around the sides. When brown at edges, loosen the edges, flip over with a sharp spatula and cook on other side. Repeat for the next ladle of batter.
- Alternately, pour tiny spoonfuls of batter all over the skillet to make ‘coin dosais’. Drizzle oil around the sides, flip over to cook briefly on other side. Remove to serving platter when done.
- Serve with any chutney of choice or with dosai molaga podi!