In the battle of flours, wheat flour (atta and maida) has been ruling the culinary world for years. Most of us can’t think of getting past a day without using it to create our beloved parathas, sinful cakes, cookies, breads and the like. It is a must in our grocery lists. But then what about the not-so-popular flours? Are they incapable of creating tempting dishes or matching up to the abilities of atta and maida? The truth is – of course not! Flours like ragi, jowar and bajra are not only healthy and gluten-free alternatives to the wheat variants but can be used to create some stellar dishes. All you need to do is get accustomed to them by experimenting a little in the kitchen, and you are guaranteed to be in for a big surprise.
Discovering Jowar Flour
When it comes to millets, jowar is one the first few ones that come to mind. That’s because it is relatively common in Indian households, especially in the western and central parts of India where it is used in making wholesome rotis, which have the ability to keep you from feeling hungry for a long time and make you feel active as well. Such is the power of millets!
Jowar or sorghum is a hardy crop. The grains are often boiled or steamed and used in making porridges and soups, or milled into flour, which are then used in making a number of preparations. Unlike wheat flour, it lacks elasticity aka gluten. So while making rotis, one often uses the palm of his or her hands to give them shape before tossing them onto the hot tawa. Or, it can be mixed with other flours to make pooris, muthias (Gujarati steamed dumplings), khakra, thalipeeth (Maharashtrian spiced pancakes), and paranthas; and even cakes, cookies and breads. Since it lacks gluten, it gets a little tricky to use it, but as you discover more and more about its capabilities, you will be able to create a lip-smacking range of treats, even gluten-free ones.
It is said that jowar is a powerhouse of nutrients. It is a high source of calcium, vitamin B and dietary fiber. According to a study done by researchers at the University of Leeds that was published in the British Medical Journal, increasing consumption of fiber-rich foods can lower risk of both cardiovascular disease (CVD) and coronary heart disease (CHD).
Jowar also contains essential minerals like iron and phosphorous, and is loaded with antioxidants that work towards keeping cancer and other diseases at bay.
Cooking with Jowar
While cooking with jowar, the one thing to keep in mind is that you will not get the same elasticity that you are accustomed to while using wheat flours. You therefore need to think of a smart recipe that can work along this property, or identify some binding agents that will help in bringing your dish together without any glitches. In baking batter, because it has oil, sugar and eggs, there is not much to worry about. But while making breads, it is easier to work with it by mixing in a small amount of wheat flour.
Starting off on a 100% gluten-free note, we decided to make an Apple Crumble using jowar flour. This worked out brilliantly and we added in some oats and chopped nuts to the crumble mixture for that extra crunch. Served with fresh cream, it all came together like a dream. Next we tried to make a banana cake. Here, you need to keep a check on the measure of jowar flour that you add in the batter. It works very differently than wheat flour, so the quantity will not be the same in a cake recipe. The trick is to add a teaspoon of the flour at a time and keep folding until the batter is nice and smooth. That way you will know the difference. Some people like to add in a tablespoon or two of wheat flour which helps in the binding, but you can also skip it completely. The cake takes a while to rise but the result is a moist loaf, which when teamed with salted caramel sauce is simply divine. We just couldn’t stop digging in! And come to think of it, it’s jowar we are talking about here.
We then got a little adventurous and tried to make some tacos. Yes, tortilla from scratch! Here we mixed in some wheat flour along with jowar flour, added butter and poured in warm water to make the dough. It was a success! The tortillas held their shape and we then loaded them up with crisp greens and spicy chicken filling.
There’s actually no dearth of dishes that you can create using jowar. If you have an idea, delve into it and dish it out. It’s bound to be healthy, gluten-free (if you choose) and probably would taste as delicious, so what’s not to like? It’s about time you keep the wheat variants aside and start including the “not-so-popular” flours in your diet.
Here are a few simple recipes to help you get started –
1. Jowar Apple Crumble Bringing a healthy spin to the much-loved apple crumble, this recipe uses jowar to create a delightful treat. Load it up with nuts for that extra crunch.