With the weather so wild and windy at the moment, it’s great to have some tasty comfort foods to help stay warm and cosy. This delicious bake is easy to make, is totally satisfying as well as packed full with healthful nutrients including a good dose of plant-based protein.
You may think that millet is just for bird seed, but you couldn’t be more wrong. It’s an ancient grain (although officially it’s a seed) that has been used as a key staple throughout the world for thousands of years. It was widely used in Europe during the Middle Ages but fell out of fashion, replaced by newer, cultivated grains.
It has many guises – in India its ‘ragi’ and in Africa ‘teff’. You can find it as grains or ground into flour. If you follow a gluten free diet, you may well already be cooking with teff flour (and if you haven’t tried it, do. It’s delicious!). When we were living in India, ragi porridge and pancakes were common.
So why do I get excited about millet? Apart from the fact I’m a bit of a nerd about these things, it’s because:
- it’s packed with amazing nutrients plus a shed load of gut loving fibre
- it tastes delightful, which is of course most important!
- the grains have a light but firm texture so feel good in the mouth
- it’s great to cook with something different for a change.
Apart from plant protein and fibre, millet is a good source of magnesium, phosphorus and potassium in particular as well as some of the B vitamins and choline (something the anti-plant eaters say is lacking in a plant-based diet….). Millet also contains quercitin, a powerful phytonutrient that has anti-oxidant properties plus helps support the body right at cellular level. Quercitin is often taken as supplement by people with chronic health problems. And indeed it can help deal with a crisis but once the body is back in balance, it’s always better to have it in food (again, in my humble opinion).
Millet doesn’t take long to cook; there’s no soaking or long boiling times required. I like to lightly toast millet grains before popping them in boiling water or stock. It only takes a couple more minutes and enhances the lovely nutty flavour. But you can by-pass this if you’re in a hurry.
The amount of fluid you need depends on what you are planning on doing with it. For a porridge or pudding, extra fluid is good so it’s soft and sticky. For a savoury dish like the recipe below you want to retain some texture, so a little less fluid is good. Letting it steam for a while after all the fluid has been absorbed also helps to fluff up the grains, but again is not vital if you are in a hurry.
As a general rule, use a ratio of 1:3 – 1 measurement of millet to 3 measurements of fluid. If you use cups then this is easy! If not, then try grabbing a small tea cup or bowl and measuring that way. The amounts in the recipe below is just under 1:3 as the grains needs to be cooked but not soggy before going into the oven to be baked.
One of the objections I hear from people is whole-food plant-based eating requires spending a lot of time in the kitchen. Which is true – it can do. But there are recipes which don’t need you to be standing over a cooker all of the time – this is one of them. It may look like there’s a lot to do, but everything can be done at the same time – roast the veg whilst the millet cooks and the sauce is prepared. Then bake it in the oven and the job is done.
What veg you add to this dish is entirely up to you. This recipe is actually a great way of using up bits and bobs left over in the bottom of the veg drawer, reducing food waste and your shopping bills. In fact that’s another thing to love about millet – it’s super cheap (currently you can get it for £1.29 for 500g in Grape Tree), helping to make a plant-based diet affordable. I’ve used Brussel sprouts and green beans in this version, but I’ve added anything from broccoli to mushrooms to radishes. It really is so adaptable.
If you are nut free, use a plant-based cream like oat or soya instead of making the cashew nut cream. And if you have to avoid nutritional yeast, add a little more garlic powder and/or mustard and adjust the seasoning to how you like it.
The bake is filling and can sustain the hungriest of appetites. I usually serve it with some extra green veggies on the side, just to push up the daily veg count 😉
I hope you enjoy this recipe. Do let me know if you make it and how you get on.
Millet and vegetable bake
- 1 High speed blender like a nutri-bullet
- 1 large baking dish
For the millet
- 150 g millet grain
- 450 ml vegetable stock
- 1 large bay leaf
For the veggies
- 1 medium red or white onion sliced
- 200 g Brussel sprouts rough outer leaves trimmed
- 150 g green beans cut into 2 cms pieces OR
- 1 medium head of broccol trimmed and cut into florets
For the sauce
- 75 grams cashew nuts soaked in hot water for at least 2 hours
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 heaped teaspoon mixed herbs
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tbsp sunflower and pumpkin seeds
For the veggies
- Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC
- Add the sliced onion, trimmed Brussel sprouts and trimmed beans or broccoli to the baking dish. Drizzle a little water or olive oil over the top and roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Keep an eye on the veg and stir a couple of times.
For the millet
- If you are toasting the millet, pop it into a large non-stick frying pan and toast on a medium heat for a couple of minutes, giving it a good shake every now and then. When you smell nutty aromas, turn off the heat. Do not let it burn!
- Whilst the millet is toasting, pour the vegetable stock into a pan along with the bay leaf and bring to the boil.
- Carefully pour the millet into the vegetable stock (it can really bubble up so beware), pop on the lid and reduce the heat. Leave it to simmer for 10 minutes then check the pan - most of the stock will have been absorbed. Once it's all gone, turn off the heat and leave it to steam with the lid on for a couple of minutes.
- Remove the bay leaf from the millet.
For the sauce
- Drain the cashew nuts into a sieve and rinse. Pop the nuts into a blender jug and cover with water - you want about 1 cm above the nuts. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
- If the cream is super thick, add more water - you want a single cream pouring consistency. Taste the cream and add more flavours if desired. Season well.
Make the bake
- Once the veggies are just soft and lightly roasted and the millet is cooked, remove the veg from the oven. Carefully tip them into the millet pan. Pour over the cashew cream and mix well to coat everything. If it still feels a little dry, add a little extra water but don't overdo it!
- Spoon the mix back into the oven proof dish, sprinkle the seeds over the top and pop the dish back into the oven.
- Bake for 15 minutes until the top is lightly browned. Serve straight away piping hot.