Millet at last is getting the recognition that it deserves, its wonderful healthy properties exposed for all to see. Mind you, most natural foods are super foods in their own right – our current fascination with super foods is simply because the particular trend of the moment is to discover a new’ish ingredient from another cuisine and recognise its health properties. Turmeric. Moringa. Goji berries. Cranberries. And now, millet. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if we also discovered the health benefits of, say, turnips, parsley and pepper – those things that are right here under our noses and on our kitchen benches. I love how we widen our choice of kitchen staples through learning about the essentials of other cuisines – but I do get a bit tired of food fashions. Sigh. But back to millet…
There are lots of different millet varieties, but the common one, Pearl Millet is the one that is used in this dish. Certainly, try it with others – foxtail millet, barnyard millet, finger millet. The result will be different, as they cook up differently, but just might be wonderful too. Do try it and let me know. Pearl Millet has different names in the different areas of India: Kambu (Tamil), Bajra (Hindi, Bengali, Odia and Punjabi), Sajje (Kannada), Bajri (Gujarati and Marathi) and Sajja (Telugu). This dish has Japanese style flavourings, but imagine one that subs out those flavours for Indian flavours. Stay tuned, I may just do that.
Brown rice and other whole grains such as millet, barley, oats, quinoa, spelt, rye, and teff are considered by macrobiotics to be the foods in which yin and yang are closest to being in balance, and many macrobiotic dishes are built around these grains.
This recipe has its genesis in the macrobiotic movement. Macrobiotics is not as popular any more, and its yin/yang approach to food is avoided by the mainstream cooks – they are also packed full of less common ingredients such as Chinese toasted sesame oil, seaweeds, umeboshi and tamari. But I love them – they are rustic and homely in style with flavours that are sort of Japanese, but not quite.
Do try this recipe – like tray-baked meals, this one cooks away in a low oven for an hour and a half, without you having to lift a finger. Pure heaven. You don’t have to be on a macrobiotic diet to enjoy it. The millet is cooked with the mentioned macrobiotic flavours, and with daikon (white radish) and pumpkin. I always use Butternut or Jap pumpkin – they are our favourites – but any pumpkin and most squashes will work.