Millet Pilaf with Carrots, Onion, and Cloves

February 25, 2008 at 9:23 am (Grains, Madhur Jaffrey, Quick weeknight recipe, unrated)

The flavors in this recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East cookbook are simple, but very tasty. Unlike most of the recipes in this cookbook, this one does not say from which part of the world it originates, and I can’t really place the flavors into any one cultural bucket. Millet is eaten in many parts of the world, so knowing its geographical distribution doesn’t really help me place it either. Millet is a fast growing grain that requires little fertilizer and grows well even with limited rainfall, so its primarily eaten in arid parts of the world. Millet is an ancient staple in Northern China and Korea (rather than rice which is the staple in wet Southern China). In Western India millet is used to make flat bread, and it is also eaten in many parts of Africa.

  • 1.5 cups hulled millet
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter or oil
  • 1 carrot, peeled and julienned in 1.5-inch strips
  • 1 medium-sized onion peeled, cut in half lengthwise, and sliced into fine half rings
  • a 2-inch piece of cinnamon
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 2 Tbs. raisins
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  1. Heat a 7-inch cast-iron skillet over a medium flame. Put in the millet and stir to roast it. The millet is done when it emits a roasted aroma and when some of the seeds turn a light-brown color. A few of the seeds might actually burst open like popcorn.
  2. In a heavy 1 3/4 to 2-quart pot, melt the butter over a medium flame. Add the carrot, onion, cinnamon, and cloves. Stir and saute for about 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Add the raisins. Stir and saute another 5 minutes or until the onion just begins to brown at the edges. Add the roasted millet, salt and 2 3/4 cup water. Bring to a boil. Cover tightly, turn heat to very, very low and cook for 30 minutes.
  3. Have some boiling water ready. Pour in 1/4 cup boiling water over the millet, stir quickly with a fork, cover again and continue to cook on the same low heat for another 10 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the pot site, covered, for another 15 minutes.

My notes:

The millet ends up fluffy, sweet, and just a bit dry, so serve this dish with a soup and salad or some sort of saucy stew.

This dish has a nutty, sweet and savory flavor combination that I really like. I enjoyed the carrots and raisins and the clove flavor, but would probably increase the amounts a tad the next time. I couldn’t really taste the cinnamon, however. I know that when you buy cinnamon sticks they come from an inferior cinnamon species than the kind that ground cinnamon comes from, so perhaps it would be better to skip the cinnamon sticks and just add ground cinnamon instead.Jaffrey doesn’t explain the reason for this two-part cooking technique, but it seems to work well. I’d like to try it without the last step sometime to see how adding the boiling water affects the texture of the millet.


  1. stupidandhungry said,

    Madhur rocks! If she recommends a two-part cooking technique, ours is not to question why.

  2. captious said,

    Actually, yes, our job is to question why. Probably she does have reasons, but I’d appreciate it if she shared them with us!

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