At the recent Agri-Conclave hosted by the Godrej Group, Dr Yasmeen Ali Haque, Head, UNICEF India, points out, “Nearly 48% of children under the age of 5 are malnourished. It affects our immunity and our ability to combat diseases. Also, malnourished children succumb to diseases more when ill.” This is a disturbing trend. The problem arises due to a lack of education. It is important to educate families that a nutritional meal is the need of the hour. Speaking about millets and the food security it offers, Dr. Haque continued, “Millets are a powerhouse. They are rich in protein, lower bad cholesterol levels and have numerous other health benefits. A millet rich diet for pregnant women helps to eradicate the menace of malnutrition in kids at an early stage.”
The challenge, however, is of awareness. “Unfortunately, we get fascinated by foreign food items more than the local produce,”says Chef Harpal Singh Sokhi. The attractiveness of the food serves as one of the key reasons for low consumption. An on-the-go burger is a hot favourite over a bajre ki roti. However, the experienced chef that Harpal Singh Sokhi is, he has worked out a solution for this - presenting the western food with a twist of local Indian ingredients in it. A term he has coined for this, ‘to Indianise’ foreign food recipes. He believes you can make our children appreciate the local food if you can blend it with the western cuisines. “To cater to the changing food habits of our younger audience, we have developed various food recipes like bajra pasta and many more.” Says Chef Harpal Singh. And millets, whilst fulfilling our nutritional requirements, can be used seamlessly without altering the taste of the dish.
Here are few tips from Chef Harpal Singh Sokhi on dishes that can be made using millets for various occasions.
Making a case for millets, Kurush Dalal - Culinary Anthropologists, says, “The requirement of protein for a human body is enormously large. Millets give us far more plant-based protein than rice, wheat or maize”. But when it comes to the economics behind millets, it’s a different ball game. “The millet production in India is going down”, said Kurush. Millets require less water and can grow on shallow, low fertile soils as well. Educating urban masses, on the health benefits of millets will boost the demand and thereby help the farmers too.
Home Chef Shri Bala curated an excellent lunch menu at the event with focus being majorly on millets. Here’s her take on usage of millets in your daily diet: