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  Age on Sunday   05 Oct 2019  The rise of the ‘holy grain’

The rise of the ‘holy grain’

Published : Oct 6, 2019, 12:09 am IST
Updated : Oct 6, 2019, 12:09 am IST

Grains are the new super food. When done right and combined with the right ingredients they can be nutritious as well as tasty.

Suzette Bakery
 Suzette Bakery

From my vantage point in the hilly climbs of Uttarakhand, I am on an adventure and mission to disprove a new ‘fad’ or diet myth about the ‘holy grain’.

Here I meet chefs and sustainable farmers who have revived recipes and techniques of working with millets, barley and ancient grains like emmer.

Chef Simran Singh Thapar has created a number of recipes especially with millets that are both delicious and nutritious as well.

Traditionally Indian meals were packed with rotis, parathas and dosas made from a variety of millets, oats, whole wheat and so on. Chef Thapar wants families to eat healthy and relies on natural rather than artificial ingredients.  

In recent times the lure of a svelte body that necessitated the total elimination of these items from our daily diet and replacing them with protein and fat has left our digestive systems in havoc.

So why do we need grains in our diet and which ones are good or bad?

Working as gut ambassadors, grains are rich in vitamins, minerals and phytochemical, they help fight hunger pangs and provide fibre and also balance blood sugar levels. The problem is that it is the refined and processed grains that are bad for our digestive system as the preservatives cause gluten intolerance.
Here are some of the most versatile and healthy ones:

Millets are now being recognised as superfoods and thus, the demand for them is increasing. This is how, many organised supply chains are now packaging and making millets available off the shelf of superstores around you.

Millets can be stored in an airtight container / jar in a cool, dark location away from direct sunlight. In case you are planning to store millets for a longer duration, vacuum packing the millets is highly advisable. Elimination of any air makes sure that there is no oxygen available for any form of micro life or micro-organisms to grow on the millets and spoil them in storage.

“Roast and powder millets yourself to make millet flour. This way the freshness remains and you are sure of the quality and buy unpolished millets for maximum health benefit.” says Chef Thapar.

Millets are high in fibre and water consumption must be increased while consuming products made with millets / millet flours to ease the digestive track and prevent constipation. Some of the popular millets are Ragi also known as nachni which has high calcium and is gluten free. Fox tail millet works to hydrate, and contains protein and good quality fats.

Buckwheat, rye and emmer wheat are all ancient grains, nutrients packed and with low glycemic index.

Technically buckwheat is a pseudo cereal from the rhubarb family and actually a seed like quinoa and amaranth. It is gluten free, has a nutty flavour and has strong antioxydant properties and contain high quality proteins.

Buckwheat is processed into groats, which are small, nugget-type granules that can be used in the same way as rice. You can also find buckwheat as flour, noodles or even as flakes, making it a versatile substitute for wheat flour.

Buckwheat is loaded with B vitamins, iron and zinc, but also a phytonutrient called rutin which research has shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Emmer wheat, also called farro, is one of the most ancient form of wheat. It has not been modified since centuries and contains less gluten than modern wheat and more fiber which can help reduce cholesterol levels.

“We incorporate these grains in all our breads to ensure good nutrition. We even have 100% whole grain (rye-emmer and buckwheat-emmer) sourdough loaf bread that contains only these ancient grains. We use it for most of our sandwiches at the bakery.” says Jérémie Sabbagh, Head Baker and Partner, Suzette, Kitchen Garden and Suzette Bakery.

There are two types of barley in the market — pot barley and pearl barley. Pot barley is the more nutritious of the two but is less readily available and takes longer to cook. It is less refined than pearl, with only the outer husk removed, which also gives it a nuttier flavour. Pearl barley has all the husks removed and is then polished (pearled), resulting in a product that more resembles large grains of rice. Both types of barley are cheap and nutritious.

To cook Pearl barley goes straight in the dish. Pot barley is best when soaked overnight in cold water, then cooked in three parts liquid to one quantity of grain. Both are used in stews and risottos or to bulk up dishes.

Barnyard Biscuits
Butter unsalted    250 gm
Organic jaggery powder    125 gm
Cinnamon powder     3 gm
Milkmaid     60 gm
Vanilla essence     5 ml
Barnyard millet flour     270 gm
Local maize flour     140 gm
Baking powder     4 gm
Baking soda     2 gm

Cream the butter, jaggery with cinnamon powder till fluffy and light.
Add the millet flour and the maize flour with all other dry ingredients and mix well together to get the cookie dough.
Portion the cookie dough and roll into balls (25 gm each).
Set the rolled dough balls onto a baking tray and bake @ 180 degree C for 15 minutes.

Finger Millet Cookies
Butter unsalted    250 gm
Organic jaggery
powder    150 gm
Mono-floral Honey
(Himalayan Jamun)     50 gm
Finger millet flour     300 gm
Cocoa powder     50 gm
Cold milk     100 ml
Baking powder     4 gm
Baking soda     2 gm

Cream the butter, jaggery and honey till fluffy and light.
Add the millet flour, all other dry ingredients and add milk gradually to get the contents together like a cookie dough.
Portion the cookie dough and roll into balls (25 gm each).
Set the rolled dough balls onto a baking tray and bake @ 180 degree C for 12 minutes.

Himalayan Millet & Rhododendron Tea Cake
Butter unsalted    1000 gm
Organic jaggery powder    700 gm
Eggs    18 number
Vanilla bean     1 number
Cake flour     800 gm
Finger millet flour    500 gm
Baking powder     20 gm
flower preserve    50 gm
flower syrup    50 ml

Cream the butter, powdered jaggery and eggs with vanilla essence till fluffy and light. Add the millet flour and all other dry ingredients and mix well together to form cake batter.
Set into a lined cake tin / ring tap lightly to remove large air gaps.
Bake @ 180 degree C for 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
Chef’s Tip: Lining the cake tin – Brush melted butter on the walls of the tin and dust flour onto the greased walls. Lightly tap to remove excess flour. Now pouring the batter ensures cake leaves the tine easily without sticking.

RECIPES COURTESY: JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort and Spa, Chef Simran Singh Thapar

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