Lemon Millet cake: gluten-free, protein rich and low IG
Time: prep. 15 min
cook. 15-20 min x millet
bake. 50 min x pie
Yields: 8 portions
Have you ever used millet? Or at least have you ever seen it? Those who feed parrots certainly have, as (unfortunately) in the western countries it is used more as a feed for exotic birds than for human consumption.
If you are looking for functional foods with nutraceutical properties, you should not underestimate these grains, which have been snubbed for too long.
The CHEtarian diet favours traditional, low-cost, health-enhancing ingredients that are also sustainable.
Millet meets all these criteria admirably.
It really does have some extraordinary characteristics(1) (for more information I recommend reading this article on millet), but the aspect I like best of all is its endurance: it does not require neither fertile soil nor water to grow, which is why it is the staple food for so many people living in the most disadvantaged parts of the world.
This recipe for Lemon Millet Cake is a great way to enhance its value, as not everyone likes its taste; although much better than quinoa, it is still a long way from the mild taste of wheat.
But for me, using it as a key ingredient in a cake serves a very different purpose; millet can reduce the absorption rate of lipids and, hear hear, it has an almost miraculous hypoglycemic effect: it reduces the concentration of glucose in the blood(2).
A perfect combination of eating a very tasty and satisfying cake, without feeling guilty: being able to use adjectives such as ‘gluten-free‘ and ‘protein-rich‘ for a cake, believe me, does not happen every day.
For those curious about the final result, I can only say that if you love pastiera (Pastiera is a type of Neapolitan tart for Easter, made with cooked wheat, eggs, ricotta cheese, and flavored with orange blossom water), this lemon millet cake will delight you from the first bite.
200 g hulled millet
500 ml soya milk (cow’s milk can also be used)
50 g butter
50 g natural yoghurt (I use my homemade yoghurt)
zest of 1 lemon and half an orange, untreated
Juice of the half orange
95 g of brown sugar (this dose is fine for those who like me, do not love much sweets, otherwise you can then increase up to 150 g)
20 g of chickpea flour + 30 g rice flour (you can use only 50 g of rice flour, or all purpose flour if you have no gluten sensitivity problems)
1 teaspoon of cinnamon or vanilla (optional, I opted for cinnamon)
half a pear or half an apple (optional) sprinkled with a few drops of lemon
4 ml, or one orange blossom ampoule (optional, I didn’t use it)
2 tablespoons of rum (optional, I didn’t use it)
1 pinch of salt
1 sachet of baking powder (10 gr)
A few lemon peels to embellish
Millet is said not to need soaking, but I prefer to soak it in water for at least an hour to reduce the concentration of its anti-nutrients and make it easier to cook; if you want to try whole millet, soak it for up to 6-10 hours and blend it to a paste before cooking.
It should then be washed under running water using a colander until the water runs clear. (To be more sustainable, wash it carefully, but instead of discarding away the washing water, collect it to use for plants.)
The washing process is important because like quinoa, millet contains a high dose of saponins; these saponins not only give it a bitter taste (which is often undesirable in a cake) but also inhibit the absorption of its mineral salts.
After these steps you can heat the milk together with the finely zested lemon and orange peel, preferably without the white part. You can do it by a knife or something like this.
When the milk is close to boiling, remove the peels, add the butter, a pinch of salt and the washed millet, and stir frequently.
With the indicated quantities it will take about 15 minutes for the millet to be cooked and to absorb all the milk; if you use a pressure cooker this indication should be halved.
Turn off the heat and leave the “millet porridge” to cool.
Then turn on the oven and set it to 160 degrees if it is ventilated; otherwise 170 degrees would be fine.
Cut a half pear into thin slices, sprinkle a few drops of lemon juice on top to prevent oxidation and oil the surface with a little oil or butter.
Break the eggs in a bowl, separating the yolks from the whites; beat the yolks with the sugar and in another bowl beat the whites until stiff.
Add first the yolks and sugar to the millet and mix.
Then add the yoghurt and finally the chickpea and rice flour together with baking powder. Stir well to make a smooth mixture.
I have preferred a mix of chickpea and rice flour; but sometimes I go with chickpea flour alone in order to optimize the amino acid profile: according to one study, combining pearl millet with chickpeas in a 3:1 ratio (e.g. 50 g of chickpeas and 150 g of pearl millet) would easily provide more than 100% of the daily protein requirement(3). However, hulled millet does not have the same amino acids as pearl millet, which is why the presence of eggs and soya milk, with their high levels of essential amino acids, could help to complement the protein in the proposed recipe.
If you want, you can also use only rice flour or, if you don’t mind gluten, even wheat flour
At the end, gently incorporate whipped egg whites: if you want to use orange blossom and/or cinnamon, now is the time.
Pour everything into a buttered and floured or lined with baking paper baking mold: with such quantities, one with a diameter of 22 cm is ideal.
Decorate it with the pear wedges (the oiled parts looking up) and bake it without wasting time.
To bake the lemon millet cake, about 50 minutes is enough: always do the toothpick test to see if it is really cooked; the toothpick must be dry. If “even the toothpick agrees”, take it out and wait for it to cool completely before transferring it to a serving plate.
For this lemon millet cake I have not envisaged any combination other than a herbal tea or other drink: it is simply perfect and complete as it is.
However, with the proposed dosages you get a cake not very sweet (which would be good for everyone, even if you are not necessarily diabetic or overweight), which means that you are free to add another 50 grams of sugar, or 2 dates or about 15 raisins finely chopped to the batter.
I’d say let’s give it a chance! If anything, you can adjust the taste later by decorating it with icing sugar at the time of serving.
Furthermore, since this lemon millet cake provides an excellent level of minerals and protein, I recommend preparing it for the days when you do not consume foods of animal origin.
Furthermore, if you are only 2 people at home like us, and you cannot finish the whole cake in a short time, you can slice and store it separately in the freezer; you can take the required amount out of the freezer a few hours before eating, and enjoy its freshness after the cake has reached the room temperature.
Enjoy your sustainable dessert and good revolution to all
1) Pathak P, Srivastava S, Grover S. Development of food products based on millets, legumes and fenugreek seeds and their suitability in the diabetic diet. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2000 Sep;51(5):409-14. doi: 10.1080/096374800427019. PMID: 11103307.
2) Saleh, A.S.M., Zhang, Q., Chen, J. and Shen, Q. 2013. Millet Grains: Nutritional quality, processing, and potential health benefits. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety.12: 281-295
3) Seetha Anitha, Mahalingam Govindaraj, Joanna Kane‐Potaka. Balanced amino acid and higher micronutrients in millets complements legumes for improved human dietary nutrition.
Cereal Chemistry 2020. Volume97, Issue1 Special Issue: Cereal Grains for Nutrition and Health 74-84 January/February 2020