An ode to millets

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Jun 04 2019

Deccan Herald

If you thought risotto, gnocchi, buns and pancakes are a sheer indulgence, you are wrong. These days, chefs are presenting a whole lot of high-calorie dishes with a ‘healthy’ twist. The dishes don’t ooze of regular ingredients like cheese or butter but are now being tossed up with humble millets — the forgotten tiny grains like ragi, jowar and bajra. These power-packed versatile grains are every chef’s muse presently. Reviving grandmothers’ recipes and presenting them with a creative twist is not only challenging for them but also touching their chord somewhere. It’s like stepping back in time and so nostalgic, they say.

Abhijit Naik, executive sous chef  at The Leela Goa, recalls a dish  of his childhood which his grandmother used  to prepare. Nachni satva  or ragi pudding is a traditional Goan dish  which he had in plenty whenever he craved for something sweet after meals. His grandmother made sure she fed him  due to its super nutritious properties. “I am serving nachni satva  in my menu and  preparing it with ragi flour, fresh coconut milk,  jaggery, roasted cashew nut, cardamom and  salt.  It is very popular amongst the diners.”

Chef Abhijit also talks  about sorghum, popularly known as jowar, which has been commonly used  to make the local staple flat bread called bhakri in Maharashtra. He is offering the same but with a slight  variation. He explains, “We have  used  the base of this bhakri to make open sandwiches with toppings like avocado salsa  or even pistachio-coasted goat cheese or a Greek salad. I also like to sprinkle raw millet into cookies, muffins or quick  breads for extra crunch.”

His love for millets does not end  there. Taking inspiration from the traditional Maharashtrian dish  of thalipeeth, he uses  80% millet flour and  20% refined flour to make steamed buns for dim sum  special platters. “We will continue to experiment with finger millet to make the Goan speciality sanna, which is a spongy, steamed and savoury Goan cake.”

Rajinder Sareen, executive sous chef  at Sheraton Grand Bangalore Hotel  at Brigade Gateway, takes great pride in offering ragi idlis. Sorghum being his favourite, he loves to make chapatis out of it. He also offers millet khichdi on his menu. He says, “It is so light on the stomach and  is perfect for diabetic sto have  for breakfast, lunch or dinner.”

Likewise, Manish Mehrotra, corporate chef, Indian Accent Restaurants, has curated ‘Indian Accent’ version of bajra khichdi, according to the location. He says, “We serve bajra khichdi with parmesan in New Delhi,  with lamb in New York, and  beef  in our London restaurant. I am happy to add that  it is an extremely popular dish  on the menu of all three outposts.”

Pearl millet risotto
Pearl millet risotto

Healthy twist

When it comes to innovation with humble grains, Chef Sareen’s millet muffins cannot be missed. “Millet is a delicious whole grain that  is high  in manganese and magnesium. Plus,  when it’s baked into muffins, it adds  a delicious crunch. By adding carrots and  ginger to the mix, these little treats make for an incredibly healthy start to your day,” he explains.

Sandeep Kumar, executive chef, Renaissance Bengaluru Race Course Hotel, believes in infusing millets in dishes wherein it complements the original flavours of the dish. He says, “As a chef, I strive to infuse and  utilise millets in different dishes to make use of its nutritional properties and  provide our guests with a wholesome and  nutrient- rich meal. What  I have  come to realise is that  not everyone is fond  of the taste of millets, hence I have  infused this extremely beneficial grain in various food items that  our guests would not hesitate to try. In this way, we create a win-win situation for them wherein they get the benefits of the grains and  also enjoy  the mouthwatering flavours.”

His favourite is pearl millets and  he uses  it extensively to make flour from which Indian breads are made. “It goes beautifully with yellow chickpea lentil and  a spicy red chili chutney as an accompaniment,” he says.

When it comes to desserts, chef  Sandeep’s famous ragi pancakes with berries, Coorg coffee-infused honey and  raspberry compote are absolutely delightful. However, his innovative skills do not end  with ragi pancakes. He likes his guests to try ragi mudde stuffed with ghee  roast and  beetroot tuille as his personal favourite.

He explains, “Ragi mudde or ragi ball is a very healthy staple from Karnataka. It is made using ragi flour or finger millet flour. It is a very basic  dish  served with spicy chicken curry. However, to add a twist to it, I like stuffing it with the popular ghee roast. I feel it gives the dish  an additional kick. The health benefits of ragi and  the rich flavour of the ghee  roast, according to me,  is the perfect combination.”

What  next? Pat comes the reply from chef  Sandeep: “From my studies and  research on the topic, I feel that  the next big trend involving the use of millets would be millet- infused drinks.” And that’s a story for another day.

Ragi Pancake

Ragi pancake

Ingredients: Ragi flour 400 gm, water 200 ml, milk 200 ml, eggs 3 no, baking powder a pinch, palm jaggery 90 gm.

Method: Mix all the dry ingredients first in a mixing bowl and  then add water, gradually while  stirring and  mixing well to avoid any lumps. Add eggs to the same and  form a thick, semi-solid batter. Add milk the same way and  mix until a smooth and  thick  batter is formed. On a buttered skillet, ladle  a small portion of the batter and  then spread lightly.

Accompaniments: The pancake can be served along  with some locally  inspired ingredients like coffee-infused honey from Coorg, jackfruit compote, or classics like maple syrup and  crème fresh.

Original post on Deccan Herald


Posted on

June 18, 2019

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