A Nutty & Seedy Pilaf of Pearl Millet, Mushroom & Red Pepper
Wikipedia tells me that “pearl millet is the most widely grown type of millet.” Its roots lie in India and Africa. India is the largest producer of this grain which is also extensively used across the Sahel region and which is a staple of Namibia.
My introduction to pearl millet was by way of bajra roti (pearl millet flatbread) when I was growing up . Till a couple of years back, I would not have considered using the whole grain or its flour in any other type of cooking.
But since I have become an adventurous – albeit a rather kooky (!) – cook, I have started discovering and experimenting with new ingredients along with staples in my quest to make healthy and delicious meals. “Healthy” doesn’t have to mean dull and boring. And today’s pilaf recipe demonstrates just that.
Pearl millet is good for those with gluten allergy and the versatile cooked grains can be used as a base for pilaf, in stuffings, in soups, as a side dish, in puddings, in baked goods and even sprouted.
toasting the grains before soaking and boiling lends them a nice and nutty flavour
I like to consider this pearl millet pilaf recipe balanced as it includes vegetables (mushroom, red pepper, onion, celery and tomato), calcium (cheese), seeds (sunflower and pumpkin), herb (parsley) and good fat (pistachio nuts and olive oil).
1/2 Cup uncooked pearl millet
200 Grams mushroom (button or any other variety)
1 Red Pepper
1 Garlic pod
2-3 Stick celery
1-2 Birds eye chilli
A small bunch parsley (curly or flat-leaf)
1 Tablespoon shelled, unsalted pistachio
1 Tablespoon mix of sunflower and pumpkin seeds
1 Tablespoon raisin
1 Tablespoon cheese of your choice
1 Tablespoon oil
1 Teaspoon sumac (optional)
1-2 Teaspoons paprika
2-3 Anchovy fillets (optional)
Salt to taste
- First we need to work on the pearl millet. Heat a wide base frying pan and throw in the pearl millet. Lower the heat and keep stirring till the grains release a nice and nutty aroma (about 5 to 7 minutes).
- Once the grains have cooled, wash and soak them for 8 to 10 hours.
- At the end of the soaking period, boil the grains in about one cup of water with a pinch of salt. They will take about 20 minutes to cook but keep checking. If you cook them in a pressure cooker, let them cook on high heat for 10 minutes.
- Drain the cooked grains (add a squeeze of lime to the remaining liquid and drink it, nutritious and delicious!).
- At this stage, you can refrigerate the boiled pearl millet and cook it later or keep aside and start working on the vegetables if cooking straight away.
- Peel, wash and dice the onions.
- Peel and slice the garlic.
- Was, de-core, de-seed and chop the red pepper.
- Wash and chop the celery.
- Wash and chop the tomato.
- Wash and chop the parsley.
- Wash/wipe and slice the mushroom.
- Grate or crumble the cheese (will depend on the type of cheese you are using).
- Toast the pistachio and seeds together in a dry frying pan till they are nice and toasty and turn a couple of shades darker. Remove and set aside.
- Heat the oil in a frying pan to which add the raisins and chilli. Stir around a bit for a minute or so till the raisins plump up a bit.
- Now lower the heat and add the chopped onion, tomato, garlic, celery, red pepper and anchovy fillets (if using). Add a pinch of salt, cover and cook for 10 minutes.
- Once the vegetables are cooked, add the sliced mushroom, paprika, sumac (if using) and a bit more salt to taste. Stir, cover and cook for 5 to 7 minutes till the mushrooms are cooked.
- Next, add the boiled pearl millet along with the chopped parsley. Stir, check for salt, add some more if necessary, cover and cook for 7 to 8 minutes.
- Take it of the heat and let it sit for about 5 minutes.
- Scatter toasted pistachio, seeds and cheese on the pilaf before serving.