Posted 07 September 2008 - 12:49 AM
Ravum & Veena,
Since both of you are interested in the "whys" of cooking, understanding the millets, the grain and the recondite process of milling that leads to a wide variation in the finished products will engage your interest. You might find The Handbook of Cereal Technology, 2nd edn, Karel Kulp & Joseph G. Ponte (eds.) Marcel Dekker, 2000, very very fascinating; pp.162-63 & Table 11 are concerned with sorghum. There are other very relevant chapters of pearl millet, bajra [Pennisetum] etc. that also bear close study, to say nothing of wheat, that will change the way you approach the way you look at various flours and cook with them.
This might encourage you to experiment with creating millet based whole-grain loafs. Not only are are these more nutritious, they are useful with respect to the affluence-induced hyperglycemic epidemic afflicting India. At the other end of the spectrum, the demand for white flour "pao roti" has been displacing traditional breads [as I have been observing in my own lifetime] in the diets of the rural agricultural worker and the urban low-wage worker who does hard physical labor.
Personally, I favor Indian flatbreads above all else, but for some reason. I found in my village, a strong reaction against these, because from 1964-68 we had been forced to consume US red sorghum and red wheat owing to grain shortage. That milo & wheat, under Publc Law 480, had been of animal feed quality. Anyway, people migrated away from the thick -red-heavy to the airy-pillowy-white with vengeace a soon as they had a chance beginning 1974-75.We just had emerged from an unbelievably brutal civil war, 1969-75, which still is being played out at Singur and Nandigram and elsewhere, but for a while there was the peace of the dead.
[A little tea shanty came up under a huge pipal tree, turned into a bus stop, started sellng bread, biscuits and tea. Da laborers, bathed ad hair combed, would gather in the evenings on the way home for a cup of tea plus biscuit, the latter putting quite a dent in their daily wage. But such wasthe power of tha biscuit to empower, to bring a sense of dignity, a sense o being metropolitan, being with-it as you sat and discussed weighty affairs [and in Bengal, they were guaranteed to BE weighty affairs, plangent with deep politics, lf, ethics, the Universe, et.al.] But the gravitas devolved upon THAT BISCUIT. A cup of tea, only, left you shorn of grace, bereft of the wherewithal to participate in the spirit, the inner conclave.]
Needless to say, the white flour bread is deficient in EVERY POSSIBLE RESPECT, be it protein, minerals, beneficial fiber, et. al. from the whole grain bread it replaced. So is the tea that accompanies it. This is part of a larger mental attitude on our part, one that leads the Indian govt. to term the millets "coarse grains" following the Americans who consider it animal food. The millets are the finest of grains, especially in physical size!!!!!! Anyway, if bakers like Ravum create delicious whole breads and make them "fashionable", the mindless affluent Indian crowd will follow whatever the international trendy set are supposed to be eating or consider worthwhile at the moment, be it olive oil or goose excrement. For a hundred years, they smeared olive oil on their babies' bottoms!Suddenly this ae crowd now has discovered its oragnoleptic properties purely because a white-skinned person has told them it was good. Never on their own steam, mind you! God forbid they could ever exercise good taste or independent judgement!
So here is a chance to exercise independent good taste via sorghum wholemeal flour breads. Also through Sorghum popcorn, that we have been using for centuries: and what array of new delicacies can we invent from popped whole Sorghum? The popped grains themselves could be ground into a flour, coarse or fine, and be transformed into interesting things with or without SORGHUM SYRUP, peanuts, other nutritious foods like popped paddy [unhusked rice], sesame, amaranthus seed [popped =allegria], copra [high fiber].
This is another product that Indian cropping systems and our fresh-water situation dictates we must use in conjunction with palm sugars, in place of cane or beet sugar. Sorghum syrup comes from certain varieties of sorghum that channel their photosynthetic reserves into juicy, sugar-rich "stems" rather than an abundant seed set. Before seed maturity, green stems are stripped & crushed to express juice, just like cane, same equipment, only more easily. Sugar Content of varieties 12-23%, but we focus primarily on the 14-18% range. The syrup has chemicals like aconitic acid that makes it very expensive to remove & clarify into crystal sugar, but is a very pleasant, light-tasting liquid brown gur.
With the help of foodwriters, SORGHUM SYRUP is what the rich & about-to-be morbidly fat people in affluent India should be consuming. They eat/drink so many highly flavored sweetmeats, payasams, pongal, chais/kapi etc. that this sweetener would serve as the perfect healthy substitute for white sugar. Take puran poli or banana stems stewed with gur, mango or other pickles made with gur: use SORGHUM SYRUP. That aconitic acid serves as a subtle but potent hypoglycemic aid when computed over hundreds of doses of sugar bombs!!
There have been VERY FARSIGHTED & saintly workers in INDIA, NARI, NIMBARKAR AGRICultural Research Institute, Maharashtra, [ I don't remember the words of the acronym correctly but the acronym is correct!!] researchers backed by people who had faith in their vision, doing what US scientists said was not feasible!! Breeding sorghum to produce both grain & syrup! Inspired by their effort, China today also is creating similar cultivars (and tormenting India on every front!) Anyway, bringing in US sweet sorghum lines, NARI bred "MADHURA" the most famous of the dual-purpose cultivars. Rockefeller Foundation funded some of that effort.
It is time that our own tycoons who talk incessantly about CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY put their money where their mouth long has preceded them by light years. They need to realize that agriculture is the default employer of multiple tens of millions without demaning any infrastructure or SEZs. Uncomplaining of immene misery, it is these same poor sods that are putting money into the pockets of the urban rich, be it through the purchase of a matchbox, a candle, a cellphone, or anything NOT grown on their farm. But so shortsighted is the Indian industrial class that they cannot nourish the goose that lays the golden eggs. The great philanthropic trusts and research efforts for the public weal founded by industrialists in the USA are conspicuously absent in India's supposed great leap forward.
Wide INTERGENERIC crosses need to be implemented [yesterday!!] between the millets and related wild grasses. This was done between Bread and Drum wheat [Triticum aestivum & T. turgidum on the one hand and Rye [Secale cereale] and Barley [Hordeum vulgare] on the other, plus several other related grases. Two important cereals were created, the first food crops ever to emerge that were not initially developed by our Neo-lithic ancestors! The more significant one is the wheat-rye cross, Triticale. The second, wheat-barley, Tritordeum, is still emerging into its potential. Wide crosses are difficult and initially hopeless efforts that pay off in the long run. Where is the Indian business house with the nobility o spirit or vision to undertake such a venture? I hear so much about giants entering the retail prodce trade. They must have all manner of consultants, Have they ever stopped to consider how much real good they could achieve, to their public image and to the nation, by considering paths by which they could really assist the very poorest as well as themselves?