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Tuesday, February 1, 2011
WHAT IS BAJRA? MILLET: MEDICINAL BENEFITS AND USES OF MILLET: HOW TO MAKE MILLET SALAD
Bajra is pearl millet, one of 6000 varieties of millet world wide. The grains range in colour from pale yellow through to grey, white and even red. Pearl millet is the most widely cultivated in Asia and Africa, with Foxtail or Italian millet (Setaria italica) coming a close second. Millet ranks as the sixth most important grain in the world.
In the West we tend to think of it as the main component of bird seed and if you have ever kept a budgerigar or other bird, then you will know the long grins that you hung in the cage were millet. It might surprise you to know that millet was a staple grain in Europe until the introduction of corn and rice. It was also one of the first grains to be cultivated and is thought to have originated in Ethiopia, where today it is still used to make the flat bread called injera. It is also used in parts of India to make chapattis or roti.
In Pakistan pearl millet is grown as a main ingredient for poultry feed, and not generally ground into flour. However, millet is becoming popular in the West once again as it is gluten free. In Eastern Europe it is made into kashka a type of porridge for breakfast and it can be very tasty, especially if you take the time to dry fry it for a few minutes before cooking it as in the recipe below.
Millet is extremely nutritious, containing as it does high amounts of the minerals manganese, magnesium, phosphorous and smaller amounts of copper, iron, zinc, calcium and selenium. Millet also has the B-complex vitamins, niacin and riboflavin, and many amino acids such as tryptophan, and vitamins E and K plus the Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids. This means that it isn’t just bird food, as our prehistoric ancestors realized judging by the finds archaeologists made in Switzerland in the Stone Age settlements of the lake Dwellers. Surprisingly perhaps it was also once the staple grain used in China before rice took over that position. (It has been cultivated in China since 2700 BC.)
The phytonutrients in millet and the lignans (such as are found in flax seeds) have potent antioxidant properties and help protect against heart disease. Magnesium can help reduce the severity of asthma and also reduce the incidence of migraines.
The ancients used millet in breads and other foods, and Herodotus who was not usually known for his reticence in telling tall tales, when he described millet would not say how tall the millet grown in Assyria could become, in case his readers did not believe him. One wonders if they believed his tales of how the phoenix protected some of the spices and incense products of the ancient world.
To cook millet, you have to wash it thoroughly under cold running water and then pick it over to remove any small stones or other debris which might have found their way into the grains. Dry it and then dry fry it for an added nutty flavour.
1 cup millet, dry fried
2 cups water or chicken stock
1 sprig rosemary
2 tsps olive oil
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
3 carrots, grated
1 red pepper, chopped
1 yellow pepper chopped
4 tomatoes, peeled and sliced
vinaigrette for tossing the salad
Boil two cups of water and add the millet and bring back to the boil. Cover and simmer for 25 mins. Stir occasionally and add 2 tsps olive oil to prevent it sticking.
Put the salad ingredients into a bowl and make the vinaigrette with 2 part olive oil to 1 part vinegar adding herbs of your choice, or spices.
When the millet is cooked, fluff up with a fork and if you are not using immediately, rinse under cold running water so that the grains remain separate and fluffy.
Add this to the salad and toss with the vinaigrette.
This has Taste and is a Treat.