My love for millets is unstoppable when it comes to innovating recipes. What attracts me most are their health benefits and the versatility in texture, taste and colour. The grains can be put to good use if you understand the distinct taste of different millets. And that only happens over time. They are, after all, superfoods of the future!
Recently, when I conducted a webinar, my online participants were curious to know how easy it is to move on to 100 per cent gluten-free food habits. Before answering them, I replied with my own worried question, “Why do you want to go 100 per cent gluten-free?”
In all these years, and especially after having started working with millets and meeting people across countries, I have my own set of learnings that I would like to share.
1. You don’t have to be gluten-intolerant to start using millets. Don’t wait for that ticking alarm. In fact, adding more variety to your grain platter will keep your gluten metre positioned rightly.
2. And vice versa too. Unless you are diagnosed gluten-intolerant, don’t give up on wheat, rice and all those grains that you have been eating since childhood. Millets are not a fad. They certainly are trending, so bring them in, but do not hate the food you have memories with. Adding variety to our food is key.
3. There is a difference between gluten intolerant and gluten sensitive. Alas, many doctors arbitrarily recommend gluten-free diets and this in turn escalates the problem for someone who doesn’t want to give up on their favourite ‘dal chawal sabzi roti meals’.
4. Add more millets, but don’t overdo it. Go gluten-free only if intolerant.
5. Keep trying out recipes and have fun cooking with millets.
6. Please don’t consider millets as medicines. They are cool, versatile grains. You should enjoy cooking with them.
Recently, in one of my winter special workshop series, I decided to bring in more starters with millets. And this Pearl Millet (Bajra) Stuffed Sweet Potatoes were a big hit. Do try this recipe at home today. I am sure you will know why I insist on having fun with millets rather than forcibly adding them. Read more for its step-by-step recipe and the health benefits of pearl millet and sweet potatoes.
Bajra Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
1 cup – bajra grains (soaked overnight)
¼ cup – onions, finely chopped
¼ cup – bell peppers, finely chopped
¼ cup – kidney beans
¼ cup – steamed corn
Some fresh coriander
1 tsp – extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp – lemon Juice
1 tsp – red chilli flakes
A pinch of black pepper
Rock salt (to taste)
½ tsp – jaggery powder
2-3 – medium sized sweet potatoes
2 – cheese cubes (grated)
1. Thoroughly wash the millets and cook them in an open vessel in salted boiling water. Cook for 10-15 minutes till the grain gets a tad bit tender.
2. To bake sweet potatoes, cut in halves vertically, prick them nicely with a fork. Coat (marinate) them with oil, chilli flakes and some rock salt. You can add some herbs too.
3. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Place marinated sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, heat the virgin olive oil in a large pan. Add the onion and bell peppers and sauté until tender, for about 5 minutes.
5. Add corn, cooked Bajra kernels, kidney beans and spices and cook 2 – 3 more minutes.
6. Turn the flame off. Pour in the lemon juice and add ½ tsp Jaggery powder. This stuffing makes for a yummy winter salad too. Keep it aside.
7. When sweet potatoes are fork tender, remove from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes. Press the surface with your thumb to make a cavity. Fill it up with Bajra salad and a sprinkle of grated cheese on top followed by fresh coriander leaves.
8. Grill the Bajra sweet potatoes till the cheese melts nicely. Serve it sizzling hot and pair it with your favourite dip. I pair it with homemade tomato salsa.
Health benefits of bajra (pearl millet) and sweet potatoes
Bajra (Pearl Millet) offers various health benefits and is a good grain to have in your diet. It has high amounts of fibre and aids digestion. It also lowers your bad cholesterol while increasing the good cholesterol in your system and is therefore very good for your cardiovascular health. It is rich in antioxidants and can prevent the occurrence of cancer, particularly breast cancer. It can help prevent asthma. It is very good for your muscular system and is known for its high vitamin B content, which allows it to break down the carbohydrates and fat in your body. It also helps prevent celiac disease.
Sweet potatoes are nutrient-dense root vegetables that come in a variety of colours. They are high in fibre and antioxidants, which protect your body from free radical damage and promote a healthy gut and brain. They’re also incredibly rich in beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A to support good vision and your immune system. Sweet potatoes are versatile and can be prepared in both sweet and savoury dishes, making them an exceptional carb option for most people.
Shalini Rajani is the founder of Crazy Kadchi and holds innovative and healthy cooking workshops for all age groups.
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