Chicken and Pea Millet Risotto and Why to Soak Grains

Monday, September 24, 2012


Last year I rediscovered millet seed grain. We used to eat it as kids. My grandmother made a special potato noodle dish with caramelized onion and cooked millet. Delicious. I long for it and will have to make it sometime soon.
Millet, though many times referred to  as grain, is actually  seed. You've  probably seen it in  the bird's food. It is quite tiny, can be yellow, white, gray or even red. And it is not only for birds.
Millet is packed with minerals and nutrients. To name a few : magnesium, calcium, maganese, B-vitamis, fiber, antioxidants, phosphorus.
Only last year I learned about importance of soaking the grains to get the most out of them. Truly I've never heard about grain soaking. And at first I felt funny about it. But since I eat grains daily, adding them to soups, yogurt, cookies, to my vegetables, pizza etc. I decided to research a bit more about grains and how they should be prepared. Here is what I found out, in a nutshell. 

Importance of Soaking the Grains
  • It is important to soak the millet  and other grains(rice, millet, wheat, quinoa) prior cooking. Soaking it neutralizes  phytic acid that binds up minerals, clogging their absorption. Phytic acid, if not neutralized has the ability to further "steal" nutrients from other foods you eat, by binding to minerals and vitamins  in the digestive tract and preventing their absorption.
  • Soaking the grain makes the vitamins  and minerals available for our bodies to absorb them more easily.
  • Another  thing, grains also contain  enzyme inhibitors, these protect the seed from germinating until the proper conditions are established.
  • Once these inhibitors are ingested, they can prevent our own body's enzymes to work properly,  make the grain  difficult to digest. Some people have a hard time with digesting grains or are allergic to them, so this may be the answer to this problem as well.
  • Soaking  the grain is a natural way of predigesting them, making the grain easier to digest and nutrients more available.

How to Soak Grains
  •  Soak grain at room temperature
  • 1 cup dry grain, add 2tbl acidic agent, stir in warm water, amount you'd normally need to cook the grain.
  • As for the acidic medium, I use yogurt. You can also use buttermilk or kefir. You can substitute with lemon or vinegar, but they may leave a strong after taste after soaking. Yogurt and other cultured products also offer a benefit of a healthy bacteria, lactobacillus.
  • Let the grain soak for minimum of 8 hours, and up to 24 hours.
  • Then rinse with water and cook as directed. 
  • Acid is used to prevent spoilage, and harmful bacteria from forming. After all, this is a long soaking process.

There are some interesting articles out there, if you are interested in the subject:



Chicken and Pea Millet Risotto (4servings)

1cup dry millet (soaked for 8-12 hours )

2 1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup white wine, or cooking wine
1tbl olive oil
1tsp butter
1medium onion, finely chopped
1carrot, sliced
salt pepper to taste
4 chicken drumsticks -cooked in 5 cups water, 2 tsp salt, and few peppercorns, one garlic clove
1cup peas
1tbl chives
1tbl parsley
1apple, cored , quartered and sliced
1/4cup parmesan cheese

  • Cook 4 drumsticks in 5 cups of water, salt, peppercorns. Once cooked,  reserve the broth. Pull the meat from the bone.  Chop roughly and set aside.
  • In the skillet, heat 1tbl olive oil, caramelize chopped onion, slowly sautee onion until it turns lightly golden.
  • Add 1cup millet 1/2 tsp salt, and sliced carrot into the skillet. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring.
  • Add wine, and keep stirring occasionally, until all the wine is absorbed.
  • Add  2 1/4 cup chicken broth, bring to boil. Cover and turn the heat down to simmer.
  • Cook for 20-25 minutes. Stirring every 5 minutes. Until soft.
  • Once cooked, add peas, chicken meat, sliced apple, parsley, chives. Cook until peas are tender and cooked through.
  • Stir in 1tsp butter.
  • Stir in cheese and serve.



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