Recently, Hindu carried a story on Foxtail Millet on how it used to be the staple of people in rural Andhra and how it was put away when people were supplied with subsidized rice. It has a very short crop cycle of 60-90 days and it can be grown in any season. The article states the re-emergence of this forgotten grain as a diabetic-friendly food, high in fibre, protein and low in glycemic index (causes steady increase in blood sugar post consumption as compared to rice).
In India: Tinai, chamai, kavalai, kambankorai are some of the names for millet in Tamil. Nuvanam is millet flour. The gruel made from millet, the staple of Ancient Tamils, is called kali, moddak kali, kuul, and sangati. Korralu (Telugu), Navane (Kannada) [Source: Wikipedia]It cooks as easily as rice in the pressure cooker or using the boiling method. It can be easily eaten with all the side dishes that you would eat with rice - eg. sambar, rasam, curds, dal etc. You can even make pulao, khichdi, pongal, upma and other such dishes with this. If you cook it carefully, each grain stays separate after cooking, and it goes beautifully into salads, adding a lot of body and fibre to your salads. I've read that you can soak and sprout them similar to 'ragi' and powder the sprouted millets for making gruel like weaning foods for babies. The fact that it's naturally gluten free is a boon to people with gluten intolerance.
Other health benefits of foxtail millet include reducing bad cholesterol and high antioxidant levels.
This is my first time cooking with this grain and I'm extremely happy with the ease of cooking, texture and taste. It comes close to couscous in texture, only more easily available, much cheaper and locally grown. You can easily precook and refrigerate this so you can add it to soups, salads, burgers, muffins, pancakes - the list is quite endless.
Foxtail Millet Salad
Time taken: Under 30 minutes
1/2 cup raw Foxtail Millet, soaked for 2 hours in water
1 tsp rice bran oil (or any other cooking oil)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup finely diced green bell pepper
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 cups of any lettuce, washed, dried and cut into bite sized pieces
2 cloves garlic, grated
2-3 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves
1 medium potato, boiled, peeled, diced
4 strawberries, diced (optional)
1/2 tsp dried mint
Juice of 2 small lemons or 1 big (3-4 tbsp of juice)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or cold pressed coconut oil, if you like the flavour)
Salt to taste
- How to cook foxtail millet: Pressure cook the drained millet with 1 cup water, 1 tsp cooking oil and 1/2 tsp salt for two whistles. Turn off the flame. Remove once cooker is cooled and spread on a plate to cool.
- In a large bowl, assemble the bell peppers, onion, lettuce, garlic, coriander leaves, potato, strawberries.
- Crush the dried mint between finger tips and sprinkle around the bowl.
- Add as much freshly ground black pepper as you like. Add the lemon juice, olive oil and the cooled millets.
- Toss well, and add up to 1/2 tsp of salt (or as per taste) and gently get all the seasoning into the salad with a couple of forks.
- Serve chilled or at room temperature.
You can find Foxtail Millet at stores like Namdhari's in Bangalore. I buy it from Towness- our produce and grocery supplier. I'm assuming in other cities, you would get it at the traditional grain merchants, organic stores or health stores over regular supermarkets.