A good way to start incorporating ancient grains – millets, in everyday diet is with this wholewheat bread with finger millet, fresh dill and a touch of spice using hot green chilli peppers.
Ragi or Finger Millet is one of the better known and, in fact, quite widely used millets in many parts of South and Western India.
|Ragi looks a lot like big, brown mustard seeds, though in colour, more of a rich mahogany medley.
(I only had small brown mustard at hand just then, so for scale have included big yellow, too)
It also belongs to a category now gaining popularity, referred to as an “ancient grain”, or one that has remained more or less unchanged over time, unlike extensively hybridized varieties of wheat and rice. So we are perhaps thinking of going back to our roots in quest of what we might be missing.
Ragi is popular with good reason, too. Rich in calcium (the richest source among plant foods!) and iron, it is also often the preferred grain of choice here in porridge as a weaning food for babies, as well as figuring prominently in the everyday diet in many parts of Karnataka (a part of southern India), which is the largest producer of this millet in India.
|Ragi takes on a lovely, dark, chocolate-y hue when moistened.|
Not only is it gluten-free, but Ragi is quite versatile and can be used in a surprisingly varied number of ways both savoury and sweet: roti (flatbread), mudde (soft-cooked balls), dosa (crêpe), idli (steamed cake), kheer (porridge), ganji (congee), cookies, laddus and many more.
To make this nice-textured bread, which slices well and also makes good rolls, I have blended ragi and wholewheat flours. The rich, dark colour and earthy taste make this bread go well with anything, it’s perfect even just plain (adjust the spice quotient to your liking), or toasted, or as a sandwich.
I used the buns to make vegan burgers which were great too.
The addition of the leafy green dill (sabsige soppu) an iron-rich ingredient make this not only a taste-good, but also a feel-good and do-good food! 😀
TIP: Though there is a significant amount of leafy-greens (fresh dill can be very strong-tasting, but it mellows quite a bit in the bread), it is well camouflaged in the rich, dark colours and even enhances the earthy flavours. The spicy quotient is high which also makes it a great tea-time snack with Indian masala overtones that go oh-so-well with chai! Feel free to omit the chillies if you don’t want it spicy.
These days, I don’t bake too much bread (and particularly those with commercial yeast). But this is one of those exceptions with so many good ingredients going for it.
For the best texture, do not refrigerate, and warm it up before serving, either as toast, or oven-heated, or pan-fried.
I tend to usually allow the dough (first proof) to slow-rise in the refrigerator overnight which helps the flavours meld and mellow better. That way I have some flexibility about when to bake it the next day, which could be possible even in the morning. Once out of the fridge and back to room temp, the second proving usually takes only half as long.
Feel free to do a faster rise in a warm place (or gently pre-heated oven).
Well, to be quite honest, this is not actually her exact recipe (a no-knead, with 100% ragi!), but an amalgamation of two different recipes which I have learnt from Shoba aunty and Gopalan uncle (whose breads are legend), so generously shared.
It would be presumptuous to try to capture the original recipe, though I have been a fortunate recipient of it, so I won’t. Because, more than just a list of ingredients and procedure, it is a passion and a dedication beyond the ordinary that produces an impeccable loaf every single time, a tryst with, and an understanding of, bread, from within the heart and within the molecules around each aerated pore in the dough as it rises into unfailing deliciousness every single time.
Fresh, hot green chillies – 2-4, very finely minced (optional, adjust the quantity to taste)
This isn’t really required, of course. There might otherwise be some cracks on the surface, which are perfectly fine and just add to the character.