Millets are grass seeds, like rice or wheat. Unlike rice, wheat & maize, their usage is so low that a large variety of them have been collectively grouped as 'other grains' or millets. They are still a part of rural Indian diet, which sees rice/ wheat based diet as wimpy food! Millets are more nutritious than rice/ wheat. They are gluten free & have a low Glycemic index ( meaning they release sugar slowly into the blood stream)The world is just rediscovering this wonder grain.
Though rice biriyani is the most popular, a variety of extensions are possible. Poha Biriyani, Puffed rice Biriyani, Idiappa Biriyani are all consumed across India.
We extend the Biriyani theme by using millets in place of rice. By the use of minimal water and long soaking, we ensure millets do not clump up. This fits them neatly into the Biriyani theme, which decrees no two grains should stick together.
By sandwiching & cooking the millets between the flavoured base layers, we infuse them with flavour.
Finger millet (ragi), Proso millet (Varagu), Pearl millet (Kambu), Foxtail millet ( Thinai), Sorghum ( Cholam), Barnyard millet (Kudravaali), Little millet ( Saamai) are all popular in rural India. All of these can be used in this theme, is you keep the following tips in mind :
1. Larger millets need more time for soaking. The soaking time varies with the millet used. Try checking the soaked grain. If there are no hard bits, they are ready to be used.
2. Smaller millets need lesser water & lesser time for cooking. Though the recipe calls for 1/4C water and 20 mins, smaller millets would be cooked well with lesser water and lesser time.
3. If the millets have not cooked, add 1/4 C water and cook again for a couple of whistles. You can also presoak such hard to cook millets in hot water before adding.