Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Using Your Grains!

Miglio al Annatto con la Zucca "Chayote"
Annatto Millet with Chayote Squash

Do you ever notice exotic vegetables time and time again whilst you are out shopping and wonder what they are, how they should be prepared and what they taste like? Oh good, I would have hated to have been alone with that little affliction!

The vegetable In question on this occasion was that weird-looking, pear-like thing... also known as "chayote"... and not so exotic after all, when you find out that it is basically just a small, mild and tender squash of sorts! Who knew?!?

And then there is millet... A grain I had always thought only got turned into snacks for parrots and budgerigars! But no, there it was at the Asian supermarket, just a stones throw from the chayote... And they both had to be bought! Obviously!

The other ingredients were very ordinary... 1 carrot, 1 Spring onion, 1 stick of celery, 1 small, mild pepper, a handful of bacon and a sprig or 2 of marjoram for some rich, herbal contrast... Combined with 1 chayote, 1 good cupful of millet and a tablespoon of annatto for that full, rich, delicious flavor and color, it made for a pretty convincing combination! One I would definitely make again... and again... and again!

After reading up on chayote, I discovered it is a very widely known and enjoyed basic, a kind-of cross between a squash and a kohlrabi for all extents and purposes... Very sweet, mild and delicious! I discovered that it is a staple of many South American dishes and so decided to try seasoning it with annatto, which is one of my favorite Mexican spices... And a new favorite dish was born!

To prepare the chayote, simply peel as you would a potato and cut out the soft core and pips in the middle.

To prepare the millet, simply rinse 2-3 times before boiling in roughly 2 1/2 times as much salted water as you have grains for around 10 minutes and then allow to sit and fluff-up for a further 5 pr so... And in the meantime you can prepare the vegetables.

I cut the chayote into largish pieces and the other ingredients a little smaller... I was concerned that it might possible soften very quickly and wanted to avoid it over-cooking. But as it happens, it hold up pretty well and retains a nice bite to it!

Put all of the ingredients into a non-stick pan at the same time and crank up the heat to get that bacon sizzling so as to give lots of good flavor to all of the ingredients and so that it begins to get crispy and delicious.

Keep stirring until the bacon is crunchy and the vegetables are beginning to brown. Season with salt and pepper.

Next, add the fluffy millet and the annatto powder and keep on stirring!

Add a squeeze of lime juice and a little cayenne, stir through thoroughly...and you are good to go! And doesn't that just look delicious? 

The last touch is that generous handful of fresh marjoram... Which goes so well with the bacon and the chayote.. Who knew that either already?!!?

Serve with a last little squeeze of lime juice and enjoy!

I just love trying out new things! And sometimes I even get lucky and they turn out to be as delicious as this!

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