Today I was experimenting with popping grains.
I am a huge fan of popcorn and could eat it plain, salted, smothered in butter or kettle corn style. It’s heavenly however it’s served, and a great healthy snack before the smothering with various toppings. A few years ago I was reading this excellent book The Thrive Diet by a fellow Canadian, and vegan athlete Brian Brazier. In it he kept talking about popped amaranth. I was intrigued… does this mean that things other than pop corn can, in fact, pop? It turns out that they can. Amaranth is one of the top poppers, and when upon reading about it I rushed off to Whole Foods, got some amaranth, tossed it into my air popper where unbeknownst to me it all tumbled through the mesh part at the bottom (it’s a very small grain), and promptly blew the engine thus killing said air popper. Hmm. Needless to say that kind of put me off the whole thing and I promptly forgot all about my popping mis-adventures. Until a few days ago.
I have been eating loads of yogurt lately. I can’t get enough of it. I am ashamed (only slightly)to say that if the supply is running low I have found myself trying to hide it from my three year old as he loves it too, and I know that my maternal duty would be to give it to him if he requests it.
My preferred yogurt fix is plain, full-fat creamy yogurt with honey, vanilla, sometimes ground almonds, and some kind of fruit mixed through it. However, if I’m having it for breakfast I like to include some kind of grain to it too. I was trying to think of something other than granola that I could add to give it a bit of crunch. My first thought was to cook some barley and then bake it with a bit of honey. This was an epic fail and nearly resulted in the breaking of teeth. That’s when I remembered popped amaranth. How lovely would it be to have some toasty, crunchy grain sprinkled over the top of my fruity yogurt.
But I foresaw a couple of problems with this plan, first, I had no amaranth and no longer live within walking distance of a Whole Foods (in fact it would require an overnight ferry ride at least, and though I do love breakfast, perhaps that would be a step too far). And secondly, I killed my air popper years ago trying to pop some amaranth… and so I turned to the internet, and discovered a whole world of popped grain that I was completely unaware of.
It turns out people are popping all kinds of grain. Beyond amaranth, quinoa is a popular choice, and sorghum looks like a brilliant popper giving mini pop-corn looking results. Then there was the lesser known popage of millet.
I’ve had some millet kicking around in the back of a cupboard for ages, waiting for a purpose, and now here it is! Millet is an excellent grain to include in your diet. It’s loaded with protein (15% protein content), is alkalizing, slow releasing, gluten-free, loaded with magnesium and niacin and boosts your serotonin. A perfect addition to breakfast. After quite a bit of trial and error and several burnt batches, I managed to pop some. The results are a subtly popped grain (it doesn’t look as popped as other grains might) with a crunchy texture and toasty flavor. Pop a batch and keep it in an airtight container and add it to yogurt, cereal, salad, or sprinkle it over soups. I think it would go nicely with loads of things.
How to pop Millet:
1. Set a pan over medium-high heat and allow it to heat until fairly hot.
2. Sprinkle in a small amount of millet, it needs space so don’t over crowd the pan. Try a Tbsp or two at a time.
3. If the pan is hot enough the grains should start popping quite quickly. Keep them moving, swirling the pan around to stop them from burning. Listen out, they’ll start to crackle, that’s them popping. Once the crackling stops they’re finished. Tip them into a bowl and let them cool before using.
In this recipe I added my popped millet to yogurt, passion fruit and honey toasted oats. The crunchy texture of the millet is lovely with the equally crunchy texture of the passion fruit seeds and the gentle toastieness complements the vibrancy of the fruit really nicely.
I will definitely be trying to pop everything I can think of now. I’ll let you know how it goes!
- 20g oats
- 1 1/2 tsp runny honey (Plus an other 1 tsp-optional)
- 1 tsp coconut oil
- 200 g plain yogurt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract(optional)
- 1 passion fruit
- 1 Tbsp popped millet
- Pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius.
- Measure the oats into a small bowl. In a separate bowl mix the 1 1/2 tsp of the honey with the oil until well combined. Pour it over the oats and mix until they’re evenly covered.
- Spread the oats out on a baking sheet, put them in the pre-heated oven and let them bake until they’re golden brown and crunchy, about 20 minutes. Allow them to cool. (The oats can be prepared the night before and set aside to add to the parfait in the morning)
- In a small bowl mix the yogurt with the remaining tsp of honey and with the vanilla (if you’re using them) and then layer the yogurt mix with the oats and passion fruit. Top with the popped millet and enjoy immediately.