from one generation to the next
Good palate memory, can be both a blessing and a curse but my first experience with millet thankfully was the latter. I was in Southern India, on a small group tour (just 7), wandering across Tamil Nadu and Kerala on a foodie tour that incorporated cooking classes. Near Pondicherry we cooked, then ate in an eco health resort. I remember dismembering banana flowers to make salad, grating fresh coconut, grinding spices. More importantly I vividly remember the distinctively delicious vegetable biryani using millet in place of rice that I ate for lunch.
My first experiences cooking millet was a disaster. I discovered the hard way that it’s essential to buy hulled millet. The husks are tough cellulose and they’ll never soften, no matter how long they dance in a pot of boiling water. Once I found a reliable source of the hulled grain I was off and running.
Millet is interchangeble with rice and is a fabulous gluten free alternative to coucous. It can be simply boiled in water and served as an accompaniement, but I think the real secret to creating a successful millet dish is to toast the grain to golden nuttiness before simmering it in stock. This step helps to develop a nutty depth of flavour and ensures that the grains don’t clump together once cooked.
This spiced millet salad makes a terrific accompaniement to char grilled lamb.
Spiced Millet Salad
1 cup of hulled millet
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 cup currants
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup finely chopped coriander leaf
2 cup coarsely shredded carrot
2 segments preserved lemon, flesh removed, rinsed and finely diced
2 heaped teaspoons ground cumin
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
to cook the millet:
Dry toast the millet over a medium heat in a lidded saucepan tossing frequently. When the millet is golden brown and has a delicius nutty aroma, carefully add the stock. Bring the stock to the boil, then reduce to a low simmer, cover the pan and steam for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to cook until all the moisture has evaporated. Turn off the heat, recover the pot and allow the millet to rest for 10 minutes. Fluff the grains with a fork then spread on a tray to cool.
to make the salad:
In a large bowl toss together the millet, carrots, currants, herbs, nuts, and preserved lemon.
Dress with the olive oil and lemon juice.
Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Cover and set aside for the flavours to ripen for an hour.
Serve the millet salad at room temperature.