It is believed that the origin of millet plant are to be found in India. Evidence has proven that its cultivation dates back to prehistoric times – in Italy, Millet has been found in Neolithic tombs. During Roman times, it was widely used for human consumption, and reaching a maximum expansion in the Middle Ages. After which, due to being replaced by other, more productive grains, its distribution and use slowly declined. In fact, until the introduction of corn, millet was considered a staple food in Northern Italy, where it was consumed in the form of polenta. In Africa and Asia, was used for the preparation of bread, particularly a type of large, flat bread. Even today, in Africa, similar styles of bread are still very popular – such as "millet bread" or “injera" – while in China, millet is used to make fried pancakes.
Due to its high thermal requirements millet is grown in temperate regions, and grows in the spring-summer cycle. It grows very quickly, similarly to corn, and in optimal conditions it can produce abundant quantities. The seed is round, small, its outermost layer consists of a leathery integument, which is impossible to chew and has no special nutritional benefits. For this reason, the seed is eaten without it’s outermost layer, after it has been “hulled”.
Re-introducing millet into a balanced diet, is a healthy choice, not only because it has a tasty, sweet and delicate flavour, but also because it is very digestible and low in calories. Millet is not only rich in minerals salts, but the mineral salt quantities present in millet are also higher than those found in other cereals. Of these mineral salts, the most important are iron, phosphorus, magnesium, fluorine and silicon. In particular, there is a considerable presence of silicic acid, which bring beneficial effects to nails, hair, skin and tooth enamel. Millet also contains a substantial amount of lipids, consisting mainly of unsaturated fatty acids, which benefit the body. In addition, it contains a high content of vitamins A, B1, B3, E.
How to use them:
Millet is a very versatile grain and goes well in a wide variety of dishes, from soups to casseroles; it has a mild-sweet taste.
Basic recipe: after thoroughly washing the grains, they need at least 40 minutes to cook, and do not need to be soaked prior to cooking.
Ingredients (makes 4 servings): 120 g millet, 1 egg, nutmeg, 50 g grated Parmesan cheese, 150 g Cheese (Provola, Asiago Galbanino or any other desired choice)
Cooking Instructions: Wash the millet and cook it in water (one cup of millet per two cups of water) for about 15 minutes. When it has puffed up, add the egg, nutmeg, parmesan cheese and the diced cheese.
Pour into a baking dish and bake at 180 degrees for 20 minutes.
Millet with artichokes and thyme
Ingredients: (makes 4 servings): 300 g millet, 6 artichokes, 50 g of leeks, thyme, ½ lemon juice, 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 0.75 liters vegetable broth, salt and pepper.
Cooking Instructions: peel 2 artichokes, slice them and put them in water. Add lemon juice to the water to prevent any blackening of the artichokes. Peel and boil the other 4 artichokes. Once they are cooked, take out the inner heart and put the 4 boiled artichokes aside. Clean the leek, chop it and sautee it in a non-stick pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Then toss in the artichokes that have been soaking in water and lemon juice and sear them, adding a little water, a pinch of salt and a few sprigs of thyme, and cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes . Pour the millet into the pan with the cooking artichokes, add the remaining oil, bring it to a boil and cook it like a risotto, continually adding the boiling vegetable broth for about 30 minutes. Shortly before it finishes cooking, add a few leaves of thyme. Finally place the 4 boiled artichokes in the middle of the millet and serve.
Millet with beef and mint meatballs
Ingredients (makes 4 servings): 300 g millet, 2 tablespoons of chopped carrots and celery, 1 bay leaf, thyme, 50 g grated Parmesan cheese, 1 liter of vegetable broth, 30 g butter, 1 lemon, 4 tablespoons of oil extra virgin olive oil, 1 slice of bread, 200 g ground beef, 150 g chopped cooked ham, 1 egg, 3 tablespoons of chopped parsley, 5 mint leaves, salt and pepper.
Cooking Instructions: drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and sautee the chopped carrots and celery, a pinch of thyme, a few spoonfuls of broth and the millet. Add 200 ml of hot broth and cook for 10 minutes. Line the strainer with gauze to steam and turn over the millet into the strainer and put it in a casserole pot, where you should have 250 ml of boiling broth. Cover it and steam it for about 20 minutes over very low heat. Once cooked, season the millet with 20 g of melted butter and 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan and transfer it into a buttered ring mold. In another bowl, mix together the ground beef, chopped ham, half of the parsley and mint (finely chopped), ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest, the remaining grated Parmesan cheese, the bread which should have been previously soaked in the vegetable broth and then squeezed, the egg, and the salt and pepper. Make many meatballs and lightly brown them in a frying pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Heat the remaining oil in a pan and add a few spoonfuls of broth. Then transfer the meatballs to this pan. Add the remaining broth, a pinch of lemon zest and lemon juice and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the flame and add the remaining parsley and mint. Turn over the ring of millet onto a serving platter, and place it in the middle. Arrange the browned meatballs and some of their gravy in the center of the ring and around it. The remaining gravy can be served separately with each individual portion.
Ingredients (makes 4 servings): 1 medium carrot, 1 potato, 1 large handful of fresh peas, 1 stalk of celery, ½ onion, 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 1 liter of vegetable broth, 200 g millet, chopped parsley
Cooking Instructions: peel the carrot and the potato and cut them into cubes. Slice the celery and the onion. Put the chopped onion in a pot and sautee it. Add the other chopped vegetables and the millet, which should be previously rinsed under cold water. Mix everything and add the vegetable broth. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 25 minutes, checking every so often that the water doesn’t evaporate too quickly. If it does, just add more from time to time. Add the fresh peas and continue cooking for another 15 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat, pour it into bowls and garnish it with the chopped parsley before serving.