Caramelized Ragi Polenta

When I last visited India, I brought back a bag of whole red millet called nachni or ragi. Then I scoured the web for suggestions: all used the milled form. Yes, the powerful Vitamix can pulverize the grains in seconds, but I wanted to respect the granularity. I found that the whole grain indeed takes a long time to cook- perhaps the reason why it has escaped the interest of the internet foodies. But I am very patient. And, exploitative! I use the grains’ resilience for a despacito caramelization.

I present two forms: one sweet, for a breakfast porridge; the other savory, to accompany your entree. The al nero (black) in the latter comes from activated charcoal, a superfood.

Use a thick-bottomed pan to get deep caramelization. Keep an eye on it and cook with your nose and the results will blow your mind. Enjoy!


Thick-bottomed pan, wooden spoon.


  • 1 cup whole red millet, soaked for about 8 hrs in plenty of water, then drained
  • dash of salt + 1/2 can of coconut milk (about 1 cup)
  • Sweet version:
    • Sweet flavorings: 10 prunes + 1/8 cup dehydrated Goji Berries + 1/8 cup dehydrated black cherries + dash of salt
    • Topping: dehydrated mulberries
  • Savory version:
    • Savory flavorings: 1 cup coarsely grated cheese (sharp Cheddar) + 1 tbsp olive tapenade + 1/2 tsp edible Charcoal powder
    • Topping: 1/4 cup coarsely grated cheese


For the sweet version mix in the all the flavoring ingredients with the grains. Cook the grain in intervals of 30 minutes as follows.

Place the grains with about 1 cup of water (which should be only about 1/2 cm or so above the level of grains) in a thick-bottomed pan. Bring to a boil. Then simmer, covered, on medium-low for 30 minutes.

Do not worry if it sticks to the bottom – just don’t let it char too much. Then with a wooden-spoon, deglaze with a tbsp of water. Add another cup of water (the level should be just a little above the grain surface) and continue to cook covered for another 30 minutes.

Again, deglaze with 1 tbsp coconut milk. Add the coconut milk, cover and cook for the last 30 minutes. Turn off heat. For the savory version, fold in the flavorings. Let it rest for 10 minutes.

Serve hot with the toppings.

  1. Soaking the grain is optional. However, soaking in water activates the grains- this makes the enzymes lot more accessible to your body. It turns out to be a little grainier when not soaked, but still delicious.
  2. The activated black charcoal does not lend any perceptible flavor– just turns the polenta al nero black. The saltiness of the olive tapenade marries well with the richness of the cheese.
  3. Due to the dehydrated fruits in the sweet version, the kitchen is redolent with the intoxicating aroma of caramelization. Almost like molasses. This porridge will blow your mind! Try this out on a lazy Sunday morning – you can get a lot done while this cooks 🙂 Just use your timer to intervene at the right times; do not baby-sit this one.

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