It has been a slow and steady journey for me and a patient journey for my readers. Thanks a ton, for travelling at my pace, encouraging me to do what I’ve been doing.
When I sit back and think, the commitment of not endorsing junk foods and not blogging on unhealthy stuff has never faded. That I wouldn’t post a recipe, which I feel is unhealthy for my family; and wouldn’t cook any junk, that I wouldn’t prescribe to my readers, has been a norm that I set for myself.
In my quest to explore various versions of traditional foods, I felt THINAI / Foxtail Millet would be an apt food to post for my 200th.
Thinai is among the oldest millets consumed by Tamils. Sangam Literature, which dates from 300 BCE to 300 ACE, mentions Thinai, alongwith a few other millets and rice varieties, used by the ancient community.
Bamboo rice, Red rice, Foxtail, Kodo, Finger Millets, Black gram, Horse gram are a few rice, millets and lentils mentioned in Tholkappiyam (the most ancient Grammar Text of Tamil Language) and Sangam Literature.
With my quest to cook more, and write more and more on the traditional foods of the Land I belong to, I chose to do a post on one of the ancient millets of Tamilnadu.
It is the outcome of an urge to cling on tightly to my roots (quite strong with at least 2500 year old heritage), and transferring the wealth and knowledge my ancestors passed on to me through generations, to my offspring and others.
Thinai – Two Ways for the Sweet Tooth
Including Millets in our everyday diet is one of the most recommended health formulas of the 21st century, and hence, the internet overflows with the health benefits of all. Name it and you get it. Benefits of Thinai/ Foxtail Millet can also be found very easily in the net.
Any happy occasion demands a dessert. Why not 2 sweets for 200? That’s why I thought of making a Payasam and Sarkkarai Pongal with Thinai.
The basic ingredients are almost the same – Thinai and Jaggery; Payasam has the inclusion of coconut milk and Pongal doesn’t have the milk to bring it to thinner consistency.
Thinai Payasam and Thinai Pongal
As mentioned above, the Ingredients for Payasam and Pongal are almost the same, with the addition of coconut milk in Payasam.
The basic steps in making Payasam and Pongal are again, almost the same. In simple terms, a thinner mixture and addition of coconut milk makes it Payasam; a thicker version with the glow of more clarified butter, makes it Pongal.
Hence, the procedure below might be repetitive. Yet, for better comprehension, I chose to make different recipe presentations.
THINAI PAYASAM – Ingredients (serves 3-4)
Ingredients (serves 3-4)
thinai/foxtail millet – 1/2 cup
vellam/jaggery – 3/4 cup
chukku podi/ dry ginger powder – 1/2 tsp
elakkai podi/cardamom powder – 1/2 tsp
nei/clarified butter – 2 tbsp
mundhiri paruppu/cashewnut – 10-12 pieces
thengai pal/coconut milk – if freshly squeezed -1/2 cup thin second milk and 1/2 cup thick first milk; if using canned coconut milk – 1 cup thick, add extra water accordingly
Method of Preparation
Wash Thinai and Pressure cook with 1 1/2 cups water.
How I cook – After the first whistle, reduce flame to sim and switch off after 2 whistles
2. Boil jaggery with water to dissolve and remove impurities. Strain and keep aside
3. Squeeze milk from fresh coconut, separate thin second milk and thick first milk
4. Over sim flame, keep the cooked millet in a hard bottomed pan or in the same pressure cooker, in which it was cooked
5. Time to add strained jaggery water- Check if you would need the whole jaggery water. Add 3/4th of it and add more if needed
Extra jaggery water, if retained can be used for various other purposes
Stir well after addition of jaggery water
Add dry ginger and cardamom powders
Let the millet cook in jaggery water and the spices, and thicken
Fry cashew nuts in nei/clarified butter till golden; Add to the cooked thinai-jaggery pongal
When the jaggery is well incorporated in thinai, add coconut milk
Be careful not to boil the Payasam too much after adding coconut milk, as it might curdle
Holiday Traveling and Holiday Baby-sitting have made this post a delayed one. I truly apologize for that.
Thinai or Foxtail Millet would be the last millet variety in this series for now. As soon as I get a few more left out varieties, I shall keep updating in the same category. Other names for foxtail millet include Italian millet, German millet, Chinese millet, and Hungarian millet.
One of the oldest cultivated crops. It was used in India, China and Egypt before there were written records. Millet is still used in eastern Europe for porridge and bread and for making alcoholic beverages. About 85 percent is used as foodgrain for humans and 6 percent for poultry. In the United States it is grown chiefly for hay. http://www.fao.org/ag/agp/AGPC/doc/Gbase/data/pf000314.htm
So, to sum up –
The most common millets available at Jowar (Sorghum), Bajra (Pearl Millet), Ragi (Finger Millet), Korra (Foxtail millet), Sama (Little millet) and Variga (Proso millet). “They have huge nutritive value. Bajra and Sama are high on fat while Ragi has lowest fat. They are rich in Iron and phosphorus. Ragi has the highest Calcium content among all the food grains. They are rich sources in B vitamins especially in Niacin, B6, Folic Acid, Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Magnesium and Zinc,” explains Professor (Food and Nutrition) and Associate Dean, College of Home Science, ANGRAU, Dr. Anurag Chaturvedi.
There are myriad health benefits of millets. Regular consumption of millets is beneficial for postmenopausal women suffering from signs of heart ailments, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. They help women to combat occurrence of gallstones because they are rich in fibre.
Foxtail Millet or Thinai in Tamil could be one of the oldest millet varieties in Tamilnadu. We also have references of Thenum Thinai Maavum – Honey and Foxtail millet flour having been offered to Murugan, the God of the Tamils since olden days. Even today, Murugan is offered ‘thenum thinai maavum’ in Pazhani Murugan Temple.
Foxtail Millet May Help Control Blood Sugar and Cholesterol
Foxtail millet (Setaria italica) is a common food in parts of India. Scientists at Sri Venkateswara University in that country studied its health benefits in diabetic rats, and concluded that the millet produced a “significant fall (70%) in blood glucose” while having no such effect in normal rats. Diabetic rats fed millet also showed significantly lower levels of triglycerides, and total/LDL/VLDLcholesterol, while exhibiting an increase in HDL cholesterol. Pathophysiology. Sept 23, 2010 [Epub ahead of print]
Millet consumption decreases triglycerides and C-reactive protein
Scientists in Seoul, South Korea, fed a high-fat diet to rats for 8 weeks to induce hyperlipidemia, then randomly divided into four diet groups: white rice, sorghum, foxtail millet and proso millet for the next 4 weeks. At the end of the study, triglycerides were significantly lower in the two groups consuming foxtail or proso millet, and levels of C-reactive protein were lowest in the foxtail millet group. The researchers concluded that millet may be useful in preventing cardiovascular disease. Nutrition Research. April 2010; 30(4):290-6.