Poor little millet doesn’t get the attention it deserves. It’s tiny and homely and known best as bird food in the US. In fact, if you have a backyard birdfeeder, you occasionally might see millet plants sprout from dropped seeds. But millet is an ancient grain, popular in Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe since the dawn of time. It’s gluten-free, high in protein, and easy to digest. Oh, and it tastes good.
I consider millet to be somewhere between a grain and a legume, since it’s both starchy and protein-rich. So I usually cook it like rice and spice it like lentils, just to make sure I have my bases covered. And ever since I made a batch of preserved lemons (a half-gallon jar, last summer!), I’ve been looking for ways to use them up. Only the rind is used in cooking, the flesh is scooped away and all the salty, satiny juice rinsed off. Preserved lemons are very salty and fragrant, so just a little bit can flavor a whole dish. They pair well with millet, especially since both are North African culinary staples.
This recipe is Moroccan-inspired, and features toasted spices, fresh herbs, and some homemade preserved lemon. The outcome isn’t very glamorous, but the taste is fresh and bright, and certainly worthy of attention.
Millet with Preserved Lemon and Cilantro (serves 2 as a side, can be multiplied)
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
1/4 tsp cinnamon stick bits
4 black peppercorns
1 1/2c water
1 Tbs tomato paste
2 tsp grated ginger
1/4 preserved lemon rind, rinsed, flesh removed, minced (about 2 tsp)
2 Tbs minced fresh cilantro leaves and stems
In a small saucepan toast the spices until golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder and grind. Toast the millet in the same saucepan, and when fragrant, add the water and spices and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook 15 minutes.
Add the tomato paste, ginger, and preserved lemon after 15 minutes. Cover and cook 5-10 more minutes until the liquid is absorbed and millet is tender. Remove from heat, stir in cilantro, and serve.