Crispy Potato Skin with Dublin Bay Prawns and Irish Smoked Salmon

Crispy potato skin, filled with spinach, Dublin Bay prawns, Irish smoked salmon and glazed with Hollandaise sauce.

This recipe is a nice and simple starter, that I was use to serve in the restaurant. I have to say, it was a the customer's favourite. So, this is how it goes:

Ingredients for 4 people:

  • 4 medium size, rooster potatoes.
  • 12 large Dublin Bay prawns.
  • 4 tomatoes.
  • 200g cooked and pressed spinach.
  • 50g Irish smoked salmon.
  • 1/2 pt double cream.
  • Coarse sea salt.
  • Salt and cayenne pepper.

Pre-heat the oven at 200 degrees Centigrade. Wash the potatoes, roll them in the sea salt and place them on a roasting tray. Cook the potatoes for 50 minutes.

In the mean time, shred the smoked salmon. Peel and core the tomatoes. Cut them in 4 pieces. Shell the prawns and set them aside.

Take the cooked potatoes, trim each end and half them (in their width). Take the pulp of potatoes out to obtain nice tube shaped potato skins. Then put them in the oven at 120 degrees centigrade for another 40 minutes (until crispy).

In a pot, bring the cream to the boil. Add the spinach, Dublin Bay prawns and the smoked salmon. Cook gently for 10 to 15 minutes. Check the seasoning.

Place the potato skins on an oven tray. Fill them up with some spinach, 3 prawns per person, and some smoked salmon. Reduce the cream sauce a little bit and pour some of it in the skins. Place a couple of tomato petals on the top of the skins. Coat them with a soup spoon of hollandaise sauce and put under the grill for about 5 minutes.

Take 4 plates, place two potato skins in the center. Put a bit of Hollandaise sauce around them. Finish with a couple of sprigs of chives and the cooked prawn head against the potato skins.

Everything I eat has been proved by some doctor or other to be a deadly poison, and everything I don't eat has been proved to be indispensable for life. But I go marching on.
George Bernard Shaw

Gluten free.


Sauce: The principles of sauce consistency

In this third article about sauces, I will look at the physical structure of a sauce: its consistency.

As I wrote in my last post, a sauce is made of two basic things: flavour and texture. A great sauce is the perfect balance between the two.

When it comes to consistency, several problems can arise, when making a sauce, that can make it unusable. It can congeal, curdle or separate, making your sauce either unpleasant to look at or feel in the mouth.
Lets do a bit of chemistry. A sauce is mainly made of water, even cream ones. The only exceptions are butters and some vinaigrettes. The water or the fat in a sauce is defined by physicists as a continuous phase. It means that water is the material that bathe all the other components in the sauce. All these other components that swim in that continuous phase are called dispersed phase.
So, giving a sauce some consistency is making that water based continuous phase feel less watery by adding a non-watery, dispersed phase into it. By doing that the free movement of the water molecules is obstructed, making the sauce feel thicker.
To explain what is going on when we thicken a sauce, lets imagine a pot full of individual water molecules, H2O. Left on their on, these water molecules have plenty of space to run around: they are very mobile. The water is runny and can flow easily. Now, lets add some flour (long chains of tangled molecules), some oil (droplets), tomato paste (particles) or some bubbles (air) into it. Give it a good stir. Bizarrely, our water seems less watery. The molecules in the dispersed phase that we added into the water are, now, taking some space in our pot. Our molecules of H2O have less space to run freely: we have reduced their mobility. Our liquid thickens.
On a more poetic note, now. Depending on the thickening agent used, not only its consistency will vary, but its texture too. Fat (droplets) make the sauce feel creamier, air (bubbles) make it seem, some what lighter, flour (molecules) will make it sticky or slimy, fruit purée (particles) will make it smooth, etc.
As you may have already noticed, there are 4 kinds of thickening agents: Particles, molecules, droplets and bubbles. Lets see how they interfere with our continuous phase.
Thickening with particles consists of obstructing the continuous phase (water) with tiny bits of meat, vegetables, fruits, spices or seeds. It is what happens when making a tomato sauce or a salsa for example. When these foods are pulverized in the continuous phase all the cell walls and solid cells are broken apart and put in suspension in the water. Then, they obstruct and bind the water molecules, thickening the sauce. Such a mixture is called a suspension.
Depending on the size of the particles the sauce consistency will vary and its texture will be more or less smooth.
Note that suspensions have a tendency to settle and separate. Chefs will either increase the amount of dispersed phase by adding starch or reduce the continuous phase by straining the excess water.
Thickening with molecules consists of dispersing single types of molecules, such as starch, gelatin, pectin in the continuous phase. Starch, pectin and gelatin molecules are like long tangled chains of smaller molecules. When dispersed in water, they spread their long chains away taking more space. In result, the water molecules are obstructed. Then the sauce thickens. If the sauce is left to cool down, undisturbed, these molecules can bond with each other and form a loose network that trap the liquid, immobilizing it. It is called: gelation process. Such a mixture is called a gel. If you make a béchamel and let it cool down without stirring it. It will form a semi-solid mass when totally cold.
These types of thickened sauce are more stable that suspensions. They don't tend to separate as easily.

Thickening with droplets is what happens when you do a vinaigrette. This is how it works. Has you all know water and oil don't really like each other, they do not mix. But if you whisk hard enough, the large droplets of oil that you can see floating away in the water are broken into tiny little ones that block the movement of the water. Such a mixture is called a emulsion.
If you want to make a mayonnaise, for example you will require a third ingredient to stabilize the whole structure of your sauce. Such ingredients are called emulsifiers. These types of molecules have the property to attach themselves to water molecules on one end and to capture molecules of fat on the other end. The lecithin in the egg yolks of your mayonnaise are such molecules.
Thickening with bubbles, in substance adding consistency with air. Very peculiar indeed. But this is what happen in the head of a beer or the foam on the top of a good espresso. If you scoop a bit of the head of a pint of Guinness, for example, it can hold its shape. In a fluid, air bubbles behave, more or less, like solid particles. They disrupt the continuous phase that is water and obstruct its flow from one place to another. Such a mixture is called a foam.
The major disadvantage of such sauces is that they don't support gravity to well. They are fragile and evanescent. To delay the collapsing of such a structure, chefs thicken the liquid phase with substantial molecules or particles. It is the basic principle used to make a soufflé.

In general, most sauces that chefs make, are combinations of thickening agents. Very few sauces are simple suspensions or foams.


Sauces: Flavour

A sauce is concentrated flavour, in a liquid or semi-liquid form that complement or enhance the flavour of the main ingredient of a dish. So, a sauce is made of two distinct parts that are the flavour and the consistency. Lets put the complex subject of sauce textures to the side, for the moment, and have a closer look at the vast world of flavours.

Flavour is the combination of two sensations: taste and smell (aroma).

Taste is perceived on the tongue. There are five basic sensations related to taste: saltiness, sourness, savouriness, sweetness and bitterness. These sensations are triggered by water-soluble chemicals, salt, sugars, sour acids, savoury amino-acids and bitter alkaloids. The "hot" pungency and astringent sensations are not true tastes they are classified as a form of pain. But still perceived by our tongue.

Smell is perceived in the upper nasal region and comes in thousands of different aromas. They usually are described by the foods they remind us of. They have been classified in 25 different genres (groups). They are: floral, spicy, citrus, berry, tree fruit, tropical fruit, non-vinifera grapes, dried fruit, artificial fruit, green leafy, green stemy, dried leaves, nutty, phenolic, caramel, burnt, papery, hot, sulfur, yeasty, bacterial, moldy, earthy, oxidized, and contaminated (source Cornel University).
The molecules that we can smell are usually more soluble in fat than in water. That little part of them that aren't embeded in fats are the one that we can smell. Being water-soluble, these molecules can escape more easily into the air where our smell detectors can catch them.

So, when we are making a sauce we have to make sure that the combination of taste and aroma is respected. Neither of the two sensations alone is fully satisfying. But it is not all, recent studies have demonstrated how taste sensations affect our smell sensations. They showed that the sugar in sweet food enhances our perception of aromas. It is also true with salt in savoury foods.

Sauces as carrier of flavours form a broad spectrum. At one end they can be made of a simple mixture that bring a pleasing contrast to the main ingredient itself or add a flavour that is missing. Butter or cream provides richness to mash potatoes, salsas add pungency to fish or chicken. At the other end of the spectrum are complex flavour mixtures that fill your mouth and nose with sensations. These sauces provide a strong environment in which the flavour of the main ingredient blends itself. Amongst those, the "jus" of the classic French tradition. Their complexity comes from the extraction and concentration of savoury amino-acids and other taste molecules as well as the generation of meaty aromas by mean of browning reactions (maillard reaction) between amino-acids and sugar. In the Chinese tradition, braising liquids based on soy sauce get their complexity from the cooking and fermentation of soybeans. In Indian, Thai and Mexican cooking the complex flavours come from spice blends made of a half dozen or more, strongly aromatic and pungent ingredients.

In the light of all what we know, now, about flavour, taste and aromas lets tackle the main problem that all chefs come across: how to improve a sauce. There are two basic principles that can help to analyze and improve a sauce.
  • The first one is to look at a sauce as an accompaniment of the main ingredient in the recipe and understand that it is going to be eaten in a much smaller quantity. Therefore a sauce should have a concentrated flavour. Just keep in mind that if a spoonful of your sauce taste too strong, it should be just right on a piece of meat or some pastas. You should also remember that thickening agents can reduce the flavour of your sauce. So, it's important to taste and adjust the flavour of your sauce after thickening.
  • The second one is to look at your sauce not as a chef but as a chemist. A satisfying sauce stimulates more or less all of our chemical receptors. You know that feeling: "it doesn't taste quite right, something is missing!" It is probably the problem, it is missing in one or more of the chemicals that activates our sensations. The trick here, is to try to rectify the amount of saltiness, acidity, sweetness, sourness, bitterness or savouriness by little touches keeping in mind the overall balance of the sauce.

It seems easier said than done, don't worry there is nothing that a bit of practice can't overcome. Even top chefs need to practice.



In my next few articles, I will be looking at what makes the difference between a good cook and a not so good one: sauces. Hundreds of thousands of them exist; they represent the gastronomic culture of a continent, of a country. Henry Babinsky, French mining engineer and writer of "gastromie pratique" defined sauces as a flavourful liquid of various consistency that enhance the main ingredient of a dish. August Escoffier, define the making of sauces as an art, and emphasize about the importance of getting the texture of a sauce right. So, as the precepts of these two, one a famous "gastronome" , the other a famous chef always pointed at the word: texture. So, I decided to focus my research about sauces, on the science of thickening, the influence of texture on flavour, the importance of salt, the different thickening agents and how they work. These subjects are going to be at the centre of my next few posts. But, first of all, let's have a closer look at what a sauce is and how they have evolved through history.

The Oxford dictionary of English defines a sauce as a liquid or semi-liquid substance served with food to add moistness and flavour.

The Larousse Gastronomic definition of a sauce is a form of seasoning, more or less liquid which complements or is used to cook a dish.

So, if I got it right a sauce is a concentrate of flavour in a liquid or semi-liquid form that complements a dish. The word sauce comes from the Latin word salsus which means salted. No surprise, there, as salt has been, since the beginning of time, the main source of seasoning in cooking (not to mention salt has been the only means of preservation of food). We are even born with some nerve endings at the tip of our tongue that are especially designed to taste salt.

Europe is only one of the parts of the world that have evolved sauces with large appeal in modern times. Nowadays, many sauces are popular far from their region of origin: Chinese soy-based sauces, thick and spiced Indian sauces, fiery Mexican salsas and chilli-thickened moles. But it was on the old continent more precisely in France that generations of chefs developed and codified sauces to what became a systematic art and an international standard.

Our first knowledge of a sauce-type of preparation comes from the Romans. A Latin poem from 25 BC, Moretum, describes a peasant farmer making a spread of pounded herbs, cheese, olive oil and vinegar, an ancestor of Pesto, that gave a pungent, salty, aromatic savour to his flatbread. A few centuries later, the Latin cook book, De Re Coquinaria, attributed to Apicius makes it clear that sauces played a major role in the dining of the Roman elite. A quarter of the recipes in this book (more than 500) are sauces recipes. It is in this book, also, that the word ius the ancestor of juice or the French jus appears for the first time. Apicius also sets the thickening precepts that are still in use to thickened our modern sauces.: vegetable and fruit purees, nuts, egg yolks - both raw and cooked, bread even pure starch. Flavouring was provided by about half a dozen herbs and spices, vinegar and honey are common ingredients too. Saltiness and savouriness were supplied by a type of fermented fish: the Garum.

Between Apicius time and the Middle Ages not much is known about cooking. The oldest cooking manuscripts that survived were dated from the 14th century. They describe major changes in the techniques used to prepare sauces. Medieval sauces tend to use many spices. They were thickened with bread and vegetable purees, but meat started to be used as a thickening agent. Pure starch was no longer in use, cream and butter still weren't. If the texture agents haven't change much since the ancient time, the flavouring agents have. Fish sauce disappeared and was replaced by vinegar and unripe grape juice: verjus. Thanks to the discovery of new worlds in the East and the Middle-East new spices made their ways into European sauces: cinnamon, ginger or grain of paradise. The introduction of almonds from the Middle-East made it the main nut used as a thickening agent.

The Middle Ages is the starting point of the era of the stock - meat or fish - as the main flavouring agent. By using stocks, chefs have discovered the technique of thickening sauces by concentration, as a result they discovered that gelatin could be a peculiar but quite efficient thickening agent. It is the beginning of the savoury jellies, aspics.

The 15th century, brought another evolution in the use of stock. Chefs started to perfect their techniques of stock clarification: it was the birth of consommés. This century saw changes in the terminology of sauces too. The words sauce, coulis, soup, salsa, gravy, Jus or bouillon started to appear on cookery manuscripts.

It was in three centuries between 1400 and 1700, that the sauces of our time found their roots. Recipes of those time, call for fewer spices. Vinegar and verjus gave their place to lemon juice. The use of bread and almonds as thickening agents were replace by flour, butter and egg emulsions.

Around 1750, Chef Francois Marin incorporated his knowledge of the Chinese flavour harmony concept into his own cooking. Both Marin and a chef I Yin from ancient China, spoke of balance and harmony. I Yin would bind together sour, sweet, bitter, salty and pungent ingredients while the French chef pots would contain meat juices which would generate complexity and harmony. Francois Marin introduced the concept of the sauce as a complement that deepens and integrates the flavour of the main ingredient with the rest of the other dish. The preparation of sauce in those times required a huge amount of flesh that would not appear in the final dish. With Marin started the glorious time of rich bouillons, stocks, consommés, jus and "restaurants" that will last until the years of the "Nouvelle Cuisine" and "Fusion Cooking".

In 1789, came the French revolution, and with it came the diminishment in the standards of kitchens of the French great houses as less wealth meant less staff. It is then that the first fine restaurants appeared, opened by the former chefs of the bourgeois households. The impact of the French revolution was assessed by Chef Antonin Careme (1784-1833) in his book "Preliminary Discourse" to his Maitre d'hotel francais. Careme made a summary of the old, costly traditional cooking. His input to in the progression of cooking and sauce making was to organize and simplify and classify what Marin foresaw.

About 200 years later, French Chef August Escoffier (1846-1935) in its Guide Culinaire attributed the eminence of French cuisine in the rest of the world directly to its sauces. In the hands of Careme and Escoffier the new way of thinking that came out of Marin's kitchen, became Classic French cooking and the cornerstone of fine dining throughout the western world. But for 40 years, Chefs just kept going in round in circles in the rigid classic cooking system. They just kept on reproducing over and over the same recipe.

In the 1960's came Nouvelle Cuisine, led by Paul Bocuse, Alain Chapel, Michel Guérard and the Troisgros Family and later on, Joel Robuchon. This new concept allow chefs' imaginations to flourish and asserted the virtues of freshness, economy and simplicity. The main aspect of the Nouvelle Cuisine was that the food was to served intact instead of the old ways of the food's total dissection. With the Nouvelle Cuisine came a more rational use of the sauce Espagnole that was the cornerstone of Escoffier's era. Lighter sauces, now had a place in cooking, the use of flour and butter thickening agents were to be replaced by light emulsions, dressings, flavoured oils and cooked vegetable or fruits purée.

Nowadays, Escoffier's Guide Culinaire is considered by most chefs as the cooking "Old Testament". Chefs around the world, including myself, consider Le Grand Livre de Cuisine by French Chef named Alain Ducasse as the cooking "New Testament". His cooking represents the next step in the evolution of cooking and sauce making. He has been able to refine even more the old precepts and integrate, flavours from the global village we leave in as well as the new dietary needs of our modern world. I think that he has reached what Francois Marin and I Yin were striving for, many centuries ago: subtleness and delicacy, balance and harmony.

But, it is history in the making, so it is up to you to find who is going to write the next chapter in the history of sauces.


Physics and Christmas dinner!

Christmas is quickly arriving upon us. A classic problem that comes with it, is how long should I cook my turkey to get a tasty and moist roast on Christmas day.
A British doctor in physics and food lover: Peter Barham, has decided to apply Fick's law of diffusion to calculate the best timing for his traditional Christmas roast.
Fick's law says that the diffusion coefficient at different temperatures is often found to be well predicted by J= -D * D C/Dx.
Molecular scientists calculate the heat diffusion process in an animal supposing that the temperature is constant, that the bird is a cylinder and homogeneous, etc. and can achieve an accurate but complex results involving the radius of the animal, the thermal diffusion coefficient, the temperature in the turkey and the temperature in the oven.
Luckily P Braham found simplified way to apply the flick's law to cook his Christmas diner. The flick's law applied to the cooking of a turkey says that the heating time (t) required to reach a known temperature in the center of a turkey is proportional to the square root of the radius of the turkey. As the mass (M) of a sphere is proportional to cubic root of its radius we can find out how long it will take to cook our Christmas diner using this formula:
Now, not everybody has a PHD in physics so there are some of the results that were found:
  • At 180 degrees Celsius a turkey of 5kg requires 2h25 of cooking, a bird of 7kg, 3h00.
  • At 160 degrees Celsius a 5kg turkey will require 3h35 in the oven, a 7kg bird 4h30.


Chestnuts, Coconuts and Sago and gluten Intolerance

This last post should conclude my research about food and gluten intolerance. I would like in this last article to talk briefly about three minor type of flour that are extracted from unusual sources: chestnuts, coconuts and sago.

Since prehistory, chestnuts have been dried and ground into flour and used in the same way that starchy cereals are. Before the arrival of the potatoes and maize from the New World chestnuts were an essential subsistence food in the mountainous and marginal agricultural areas of France, Corsica and Italy. Its nutritional breakdown is as follow: Nutrient for 100gm of flour Calories 371 (calories from Total Fat 33) ; Total Fat 3.67 gm (Saturated Fat 0.7 gm (17.9%), Polyunsaturated Fat 1.6 gm (44.0%), Monounsaturated Fat 1.4 gm (38.1%) ) ; Cholesterol < gm =" grams" mg =" milligrams" iu =" international" re =" retinol">

Chestnut flour is poor in protein and gluten free. It is traditionally used to make gruels, breads, pastas, batters (great for pancakes!), cakes, polenta, and provides substance in soups.

Coconut flour refers to the screened food-grade product obtained after drying, expelling and/or extracting most of the oil or milk from sound coconut meat. The meat is either pared or unpared. It is sub-classified according to its fat content (low, medium and high), protein content (high protein) and fiber content (high fiber).
The manufacturing of virgin coconut oil and flour involves two processing methods either by the:

1) Dry process which involves drying of grinded coconut meat, oil extraction and pulverizing the meal. The process produces a high protein coconut flour (33%) which can be used as wheat substitute. The advantages of the this process is the high oil recovery at 88% based on the oil content of the meat (65%) or 58% of the dried granulated meat and good quality of the oil with a free fatty acid content of 0.1%. The dry process also produces high protein flour which can be used in making pan de sal and other baked products.

2) Wet process wherein the meat is extracted with milk, drying of the residue and grinding to produce the flour. In the wet process, almost 52% of the available oil in the fresh meat is recovered. To optimize the oil extraction efficiency of the wet process developed a technology to further extract the oil from the meal after milk extraction. The meal or residue that remains still contains a lot of oil 35-48% fat content in which 38% colorless oil is recovered and 40% coco flour is obtained as a by-product. Instead of selling the residue as feeds this can be further processed to produce two high-value products, VCO and flour. The coconut flour is high in fiber content 60% dietary fiber which can be used as a functional ingredient in the lowering of glycemic index and serum cholesterol levels.

1. Whole full fat coconut flour: Coconut flour prepared from unpared dehydrated and edible coconut kernels by pre-pressing and solvent extraction.
2. Coconut flour from pared Coconut flour prepared from pared, coconut dehydrated and edible coconut kernel.
3.Defatted coconut flour: Food Coconut flour obtained from food-grade grade copra meal or copra that has been defatted by solvent/mechanical extraction. The resulting flour is brownish in color Sub-classification: low fat Coconut flour with 10-15% fat ; medium fat Coconut flour with 16-25% fat ; high fat Coconut flour with 25-48% fat ; Low-fat, high-fiber coconut Coconut flour from finely ground coconut flour residue “sapal”. The fat content of the resulting flour range from 10-15% and has a total dietary fiber content of more than 60%.

4. High-protein, high-fiber Coconut flour prepared from dehydrated finely ground coconut meat.

5. Paring flour Coconut flour prepared from the paring or the testa of the coconut.

6. Copra meal Coconut meat obtained after extracting oil for granulated copra.

There is a proximate Composition of Coconut Flour From Fresh-Dry Process(1st figure), from wet-dry Process (2nd figure)
Moisture 4.5/ 6.7 ; Fat 10.7/ 10.9 ; Crude Fiber 40/ 60.9 (as dietary fiber) ; Protein 17.5/ 10.8 ; Ash 5.5/ 3.16 ; Carbohydrates 61.8/ 68.5.
Note that coconut flour is gluten free therefore suitable for coeliacs.

Coconut flour can be used to bake cakes and in the making of batters.

Sago is a powdery starch made from the processed pith (the word comes from the Old English word piþa, meaning substance, akin to Middle dutch pit, meaning the pit of a fruit) found inside the trunks of the Sago Palm metroxylon sagu. The genus name metroxilon is derived from Greek and means heartwood, while the species name sagu is from a local name for the food. Sago forms a major staple food for the lowland peoples of New Guinea and the Moluccas where it is often cooked and eaten as a form of pancake with fish.
Sago looks like tapioca and both are pearly grains of starch, but tapioca is made from the root of the cassava root.
This palm tree only flower and fruit once before they die. The stems are harvested just before the flower forms as it is only then that they are full of the stored starch which will be used for flowering and fruiting. The trunks are cut into sections and into halves and the starch is beaten or extracted from the "heartwood", the traditional methods is to collect the starch when it settles out of water. One palm yields 150 to 300kg of starch.
Sago flour is nearly pure carbohydrate (starch), and contains very little vitamins, or minerals. However, as sago palms are typically found in areas unsuited for other forms of agriculture, sago cultivation is often the most ecologically appropriate form of land-use.
A portion of 100 grams of dry sago yields 355 calories, including an average of 94 grams of carbohydrate, 0.2 grams of protein, 0.5 grams of dietary fiber, 10mg of calcium, 1.2mg of iron, and negligible amounts of fat, carotene, thiamine, and ascorbic acid (vitamin C). It is free from gluten making it a suitable substitutes for gluten intolerant people.
Sago flour can be use to make batters, unleavened flat breads, and noddles.
Useful links about gluten intolerance:


Millet and Gluten Intolerance

Millet is the name used for a number of different grains, all of them with very small seeds, 1-2 mm in diameter. These includes, plants from the Panicum, Setaria, Pennisetum and Eleusine species. The millets are native to Africa and Asia, and have been cultivated for 6000 years. They're especially important in arid lands because they have one of the lowest water requirements of any cereals and will grow in poor soil and is unique due to its short growing season. It can develop from a planted seed to a mature, ready to harvest plant in as little as 65 days. Millet is a tall erect annual grass with an appearance strikingly similar to maize. The seeds are enclosed in colored hulls, with color depending on variety, and the seed heads themselves are held above the grassy plant on a spike like panicle 6 to 14 inches long and are extremely attractive. Because of a remarkably hard, indigestible hull, this grain must be hulled before it can be used for human consumption.

Millet is highly nutritious, gluten free and like buckwheat and quinoa, is not an acid forming food so is soothing and is considered to be one of the least allergenic and most digestible grains available.
Millet is tasty, with a mildly sweet, nut-like flavor.
Millets protein content varies between 16 and 22%, it is also high in fiber, B-complex vitamins including niacin, thiamin, and riboflavin, the essential amino acid methionine, lecithin, and some vitamin E. It is particularly high in the minerals iron, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium. The typical nutritional value of a 120 g serving is as follow: Energy 433 cals or 1812 kJ ; Total Fats 3.5 g (no cholesterol, no saturated fat, no polyunsaturated, 3.5 g monoinsatured fat); Carbohydrates 87.5 g ; Protein 11.9 g ; Fibre 3.8 g ; Sodium 144 mg ; Potassium 390 mg ; Iron 8.2 mg ; Calcium 24 mg.
The seeds are also rich in phytochemicals, including Phytic acid, which is believed to lower cholesterol, and Phytate, which is associated with reduced cancer risk.

A characteristic of millet is the presence in the hulls and seeds, of small amounts of a goiterogenic substances that limit uptake of iodine to the thyroid. In large amounts these "thyroid function inhibitors" can cause goiter and some researchers feel this may explain, at least in part, the perplexing correlation between millet consumption and goiter incidence in some of the developing countries where millet constitutes a significant part of the diet.
These substances are diminished during the hulling process but there is definitely controversy concerning the idea that the process of cooking largely destroys those that are left in the seed itself. Some researchers including Dr. Jeffrey Bland believe that cooking greatly diminishes these substances; others claim that it doesn’t and that in fact if millet is cooked and stored in the refrigerator for a week, a practice common in many cultures, these substances will actually increase as much as six fold I have to say I haven't found any serious proof and studies results to make my mind on a good way to minimize the effect of these substance, so if you have any thyroid gland problems avoid this cereal.
There are other vegetables clother to us that also contain these goiterogenic substances such as brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, mustard greens, spinach, turnips, rutabagas, cassava, soy beans, peanuts, peaches, and pears.
Millets is used in various cultures in many diverse ways: The Hunzas, who live in a remote area of the Himalayan foothills are known for their excellent health and longevity and for whom millet is used as staple in their diet use millets as a cereal, in soups.
In Eastern Europe millet is used in porridge and kasha, or is fermented into a beverage and in Africa it is used to make bread, as baby food, and as uji, a thin gruel used as breakfast porridge.

The general guideline to cook millet is 3 parts water or stock and 1 part grain, and cook for approximately 30 to 40 minutes or until water is completely absorbed. The grain has a fluffier texture when less water is used and is very moist and dense when cooked with extra water. If millet is presoaked the cooking time is shortened by 5 to 10 minutes. There is an interesting cooking method that I came across in a book called "Hunza Health Secrets" is to soak the grain overnight, steam over boiling water for thirty minutes.

The flavor of millet can be enhanced by lightly roasting the grains in a dry pan before cooking; stir constantly for approximately three minutes. Millet is a tasty cereal add on in casseroles, breads, soups, stews, soufflés, pilaf, and stuffing. It can, also, be served as a side dish or served under sautéed vegetables or with beans and can be popped like corn for use as a snack or breakfast cereal. Millet can be, safely, sprouted for use in salads and sandwiches.
Millet flour produces light, dry, delicate baked goods and a crust that is thin and buttery smooth. For yeast breads up to 30% millet flour may be used, but only combined with glutinous flours to enable the bread to rise (cf dough and batters part I)

Useful links about gluten intolerance:


Teff and Gluten Intolerance

Teff, eragrostis in Latin, is believed to have originated in Ethiopia between 4000 and 1000 BC. Teff seeds were discovered in a pyramid thought to date back to 3359 BC. The word teff is thought to have been derived from the Amharic word teffa which means "lost," due to its small size it is easily is lost if dropped. It is the smallest grain in the world, measuring only about 1/32 of an inch in diameter. It takes 150 grains of teff to make the weight of a grain of wheat. The common English names for teff are teff, lovegrass, and annual bunch grass.
This grain has been widely cultivated and used in Ethiopia, India and Australia. It would seem that because of its superior nutritional qualities, teff would be available to all persons in Ethiopia to make injera. However, while it is the preferred grain in making injera, its availability is limited by its high cost. Teff is currently the most expensive grain to purchase in Ethiopia as it requires labor-intensive harvesting and processing techniques, and produces especially low yields. Although teff covers the greatest land space in Ethiopia, it has the lowest yield per hectare, an average of 910kg/ha. In 1996-1997, teff covered 31% of the total landmass, as compared to 17% and 13% for corn and wheat respectively. The total yield for the teff grown in that year was only 26-28%.

The nutritional value of a portion of 100g of teff is as follow: Energy 1452 KJ. Protein 10 g, Fat 2.5 g, Carbohydrates 76.5 g (Fibers 3.5 g, Starch 73.0), Food fibre 5 g, Lysine 2.80 g, Isoleucine 3.90 g, Valine 5.00 g, Phenylalanine 4.80 g, Tyrosine 2.10 g, Tryptophan 1.50 g, Treonine 3.40 g, Histidine 1.90 g, Arginine 3.40 g, Methionine 2.50 g, 387 milligrams of calcium, 15 milligrams of iron. It is also a rich source of other minerals including magnesium, boron, copper, phosphorous and zinc. Note that teff is gluten free making it suitable for Coeliacs.

Teff is grown in Ethiopia and Eritrea predominately for human consumption. It is ground into flour, fermented for three days then made into injera. It is also used in porridge and used as an ingredient in home-brewed alcoholic drinks. Teff is used in mixtures with soybean, chickpea and other grains and is becoming popular as baby food because of its high mineral content.

In Ethiopia, teff has multiple other uses including acting as reinforcement for thatched roofs and mud bricks.The grass is grown as forage for cattle and is also used as a component in adobe construction in Ethiopia.

Useful links about gluten intolerance:


Sorghum and Gluten Intolerance

Sorghum (sorghum bicolor) evolved in the steppes and savannas of the north-east quadrant of Africa. It was domesticated there, about 2000 BCE and then spread from there throughout Africa, India and later China.
Grain sorghum has an amazing capacity to tolerate drought and heat, and is even able to produce its fruits during periods of extended drought, in circumstances that would impede production in most other grains. Sorghum leaves roll along the midrib when moisture- stressed, making the plant more drought resistant than other grain plants. Sorghum is a staple food for a lot of people around the world.
Sorghum's grains are quite small, around 4mm long and 2mm wide. Its protein content is higher than corn and about equal to wheat. It is, also reach in tannin, an acidic complex, that can affect both the taste and nutritional value of sorghum. Historically, farmers were used to grow sorghum with a high tannin content because it's not palatable to birds.
The Nutritional breakdown of Sorghum is as follow: For a serving of a 100 g, 339 Calories, 3.3 g Fat (Saturated Fat 0.457 mg, Monounsaturated Fat 0.993 mg, Polyunsaturated Fat 1.37 mg), 75 g Carbohydrates (no sugar, no dietary fiber), Protein 11 g (no glutenin, no gliadine), Sodium 6 mg, Thiamin 0.237 mg, Riboflavin 0.142 mg, Niacin 2.927 mg, Calcium 28 mg, Iron 4.4 mg, Phosphorus 287 mg, Potassium 350 mg. Being deficient in gluten, sorghum is an excellent alternative to wheat for coeliacs.
Sorghum starch can be manufactured by a wet-milling process similar to that used for corn starch, then made into dextrose for use in foods. The grain can be a source of grain and butyl alcohol.
Source FAO

Sorghum is cooked like most grains boiled or steamed. It can be used to make unleavened breads, porridge or gruel, couscous, beer, and specialty foods such as popped grain and syrup from sweet sorghum. Note that sorghum should not be sprouted as the seed germinates, it produces a protective cyanide-generating system (seeAmaranth).
In Africa, the straw of traditional tall sorghum is used to make palisades in villages or around a homestead. The plant bases are an important source of fuel for cooking and the stems of wild varieties are used to make baskets or fish traps. Dye extracted from sorghum is used in West Africa to color leather red.

It is believed that while traveling in Europe, Benjamin Franklin was impressed with a small broomcorn broom he used to clean his hat. He found a few seeds attached to the straw, and took them with him when he returned to Philadelphia. He planted the seeds and initiated an industry. Arcola, Illinois is known as the "Broom Corn Capital of the World." Since the late 1800's, area farmers grew the sorghum used in the broom industry. Arcola holds an annual Broom Corn Festival each September.


Guide to my Recipes

This what these little signs at the bottom of my recipes means:
  • Suitable for freezing.
  • Contains nuts
Costing Levels
  • Inexpensive
  • Not too expensive
  • Expensive

Pungency Levels

  • Mild
  • Hot
    Extremely hot
  • Vegan: Suitable for our vegans friends.
  • Vegetarian: Suitable for our vegetarians friends.