Culinary preparations

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Foods from sorghum and millets can be grouped in two categories, traditional products and non-traditional industrial products. Unprocessed or processed grain can be cooked whole or decorticated and if necessary ground to flour by any of the traditional or industrial methods described in Chapter 3. A detailed classification of traditional foods from sorghum and millets has been developed (Vogel and Graham, 1979; Rooney, Kirleis and Murty, 1986). They can be classified broadly into breads, porridges, steamed products, boiled products, beverages and snack foods (Rooney, Kirleis and Murty, 1986; Rooney and McDonough, 1987). The various uses of sorghum and millets in india are shown in Table 28 (Pushpammannd Chittemma Rao, 1981). Foods from pearl millet in different parts of the world are given in Table 29; the products are similar to those from sorghum. The following are a few of the many different ways sorghum and millet can be prepared for eating. (Spices and condiments may be added to suit individual tastes.)

Whole grains

Immature sorghum grains are sometimes roasted whole. Sorghum and to a lesser extent pearl millet and finger millet are popped (dry heated to make the grain explode) in villages in India (Subramanian and Jambunathan, 1980). The grains are usually popped on special hot plates or on sand baths heated over a fire. Popped sorghum is said to be more tender than popped corn, contains less hull, does not clog spaces between the teeth and makes less noise when eaten. In general, the desired characteristics of sorghum for popping are small grain size, a medium to thick pericarp, hard endosperm and a very low germ-to-endosperm ratio (Murty et al., 1982). Significant genotypic differences exist in sorghum for popping volume, expansion ratio and popping percentage (Thorat et al., 1988). In finger millet, wide varietal variations exist for popping quality. White-seeded types are preferred; brown-seeded varieties were found to be not particularly suitable for popping (Malleshi and Desikachar, 1981; Shukla et al., 1986).

TABLE 28: Forms of utilization of sorghum and millets in India

Food Product type Form of grain used


      No. Percentagea
Roti Unleavened flat bread Flour 1 132 67
Sangati Stiff porridge Mixture of coarse particles and flour 811 48
Annam Rice-like Dehulled grain 586 35
Kudumulu Steamed Flour 295 18
Dosa Pancake Flour 213 13
Ambali Thin porridge Flour 167 10
Boorelu Deep fried Flour 164 10
Pelapindi Popped whole grain and flour Mixture of coarse particles and flour 94 6
Karappoosa Deep fried Flour 42 3
Thapala chakkalu Shallow fried Flour 24 1
Pearl millet
Roti Unleavened bread Flour 706 88
Sangati Stiff porridge Mixture of coarse particles and flour 305 38
Annam Rice-like Dehulled grain 268 33
Kudumulu Steamed Flour 229 29
Boorelu Deep fried Flour 145 18
Dosa Pancake Flour 26 3
Thapala chakkalu Shallow fried Flour 24 3
Ambali Thin porridge Flour 22 3
Finger millet
Sangati Stiff porridge Rice brokers and flour 308 63
Roti Unleavened bread Flour 151 31
Ambali Thin porridge Flour 149 31
Proso millet
Annam Rice-like Dehulled grain 236 94
Muruku Deep fried Flour 96 38
Karappoosa Deep fried Flour 37 15
Ariselu Deep fried Flour 17 7
Foxtail millet
Annam Rice-like Dehulled grain 517 96
Ariselu Deep fried Flour 21 4
Sangati Stiff porridge Flour 12 2
Roti Unleavened bread Flour 7 1
Kodo millet
Annam Rice-like Dehulled grain 76 96

a Of surveyed consumers of each grain, percentage who consume the specified preparation. For example, 67 percent of sorghum consumers reported that they consume sorghum prepared as roti.
Source: Pushpumma and Chittemma Rao, 1981.


Decorticated millet grains are sometimes boiled in water and served like rice. Grits made from sorghum and pearl millet are also cooked like rice in many countries. Sorghum boiled like rice is called kichuri in Bangladesh, lehta wagen in Botswana, kaoliang mifan in China, nifro in Ethiopia and oka baba in Nigeria (Subramanian et al., 1982). Dehulled sorghum and pearl millet grains are also cooked like rice in India. A sorghum product similar to rice called sori has been developed in Mali. In China, grain with 80 percent extraction rate is used for boiled sorghum. Sometimes pearled sorghum, rice and beans are mixed and cooked. In some countries sorghum varieties with hard, small grains are specially grown for processing into food which can be used as a substitute for rice.

TABLE 29: Traditional foods made with pearl millet

Type of food Common names Countries
Unfermented bread Roti, rotii India
Fermented bread Kisra, dose, dosai, galletes, injera Africa, India
Thick porridge Ugali, tuwo, saino, dalaki, aceda, atap, bogobe, ting tutu kalo, karo, kwon, nshimba, nuchu, to, tuo, zaafi, asidah, mato, sadza, sangati Africa, India
Thin porridge Uji, ambali, edi, eko, kamo, nasha, bwa kal, obushera
Ogi, oko, akamu, kafa, koko, akasa
Africa,India Nigeria, Ghana
Steamed cooked products Couscous, degue West Africa
Boiled, rice like foods Annam, ache Africa, India
Snack foods   Africa, Asia
Sweet/sour opaque beers Burukutu, dolo, pito, talla West Africa
Sour opaque beers Marisa, busaa, merissa, urwaga, mwenge, munkoyo, utshwala, utywala, ikigage Sudan, southern Africa
Non-alcoholic beverages Mehewu, amaheu, marewa, magou, feting, abrey, huswa Africa

Source: Rooney and McDonough, 1987.

Flaking is a process that is widely used for making foods from cereals, and both sorghum and millet can be flaked. Decorticated grits are moistened with water and steamed or cooked to gelatinize some of the starch, dried to a moisture content of about 17 percent and then either pounded in a special mortar (Desikachar, 1975)orrolledbetweenflakingrolls(RizleyandSuter, 1977) to produce a flat product. The flakes are further dried and can be stored for several months. Sorghum has been flaked in the United States to improve its digestibility for beef cattle. In India poha and avilakki are flaked foods based on sorghum and millet.

In many West African countries, sorghum and pearl millet grits are steamed to produce a coarse and uniformly gelatinized product called couscous. Sorghum with a pigmented testa produces reddish-brown couscous with an astringent taste. Couscous can be consumed fresh or can be dried; in its dried form it can be stored for more than six months (Galiba et al., 1987). The dried product can be reconstituted in water, milk or sauce. It is used as a convenience food in the Sahel.


Porridges are the major foods in several African countries. They are either thick or thin in consistency. These porridges carry different local names. Thick porridges are called uguli (Kenya, United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda), to (Burkina Faso, the Niger), tuwo (Nigeria), aceda (the Sudan), bogobe, jwa ting (Botswana) and sadza (Zimbabwe). The nutritional value of whole and decorticated sorghum grains and dishes made from them is shown in Table 30. The biological value of sorghum ugali was superior to that of the raw grain, but the true digestibility of protein decreased when sorghum was processed into ugali (Table 31). In Mali, parts of Senegal and Guinea, to is alkali treated and has a pH of 8.2. In Burkina Faso, it is acid treated to a pH of about 4.6. In other regions of Africa, the to is neutral. These treatments have implications in the taste preferences and nutrition of the people.

Thin porridges are called uji (Kenya, United Republic of Tanzania), ogi or koko (Nigeria, Ghana), edi (Uganda), rouye (the Niger, Senegal), nasha (the Sudan), rabri (India), bota or mahewu (Zimbabwe) and motogo we tiny (Botswana). Sorghum flour, sorghum malt, pigeon pea and groundnut are mixed in different proportions to improve the nutritional value of traditional porridges (Nout et al., 1988).

In Uganda, a sour porridge called bushera is prepared by boiling ungerminated millet flour to produce a thick paste. Flour made from freshly germinated millet is then mixed into it. This sweetens the porridge and also lowers its viscosity. Bushera can be kept for three to four days before it starts to ferment. Ultimately it will become a strongly alcoholic drink.

TABLE 30: Chemical composition of whole and decorticated sorghum grains and dishesa

Variety and preparation Protein (N6.25) Ash
(% w/w)
Crude fibre
(% w/w)
(% w/w)
Tetron, whole grain 10.9 1.78 5.1 2.1 72.5
Dabar, whole grain 11.6 1.68 4.0 2.0 73.4
Feterita, whole grain 13.4 2.07 4.1 2.1 71.0
Dabar, decorticaded (79% extraction) 11,3 1.39 3.3 1.0 79.4
Feterita, decorticated (80% extraction) 14.9 0.87 2.7 0.8 74.3
Dabar, ugali, whole grain 11.3 1.56 4.1 2.2 69.9
Dabar, ugali (acid),whole grain 12.7 1.62 3.8 2.2 69.7
Feterita, ugali, whole grain 14.1 1.39 4.0 2.2 66.5
Tetron, kisra, whole grain 11.3 1.80 5.3 2.1 71.2
Feterita, kisra, whole grain 14.1 1.59 5.1 2.4 68.8
Dabar, kisra, decorticated (79% extraction) 12.6 1.23 4.2 1.1 74.8

a All data are expressed on a dry - matter basis.
Source: Eggum et al., 1983.

Fermented porridge is made in several regions in Africa. Changes occur during fermentation that are the result of the activity of microorganisms bacteria, yeasts and moulds. Fermentation processes have evolved largely as a result of practical needs. The palatability and the texture of foods can be changed and their shelf-life can often be improved by fermenting them. In eastern Africa, a suspension of maize, millet, sorghum or cassava flour in water is fermented before or after cooking to make a thin porridge. Oniang'O and Alnwick ( 1988 ) described fermented porridge made in Africa from sorghum, finger millet and pearl millet. Fermented porridges are variously thought to promote lactation and to be unsuitable for young children. The shelf-life of fermented porridge is quite short, usually less than 30 hours. In the Sudan, a thin fermented porridge called nasha is prepared with sorghum. Tomkins, Alnwick and Haggerty (1988) identified some of the bacteria and moulds they found in nasha and also described a fermented porridge called ting from Botswana. Ogi, a popular fermented porridge in Nigeria, is prepared using sorghum, millet and maize in various proportions (Steinkraus, 1983; Tomkins, Alnwick and Haggerty, 1988). The predominant volatile and non-volatile acids in ogi are lactic and acetic acids, respectively. Traces of formic acid have also been detected. These give ogi its characteristic aroma and its sour taste. Light-coloured ogi with mild sourness is preferred. However, in Kenya, brown uji is preferred. Maize ogi contains more energy (calories) than sorghum ogi (Table 32). However, the protein, fat and minerals on a dry-weight basis are higher in sorghum ogi than in maize ogi (Brown et al., 1988).

TABLE 31: Protein quality of whole and deconicated sorghum grains and dishes

Variety and preparation

Amino acid (g/16 g N)

True protein digestibility (%) Biological value (%) Net protein utilization (%) Utilizable protein (%)
  Lysine Threonine Methionine + cystine Proline Glutamic acid        
Tetron, whore grain 2.3 3.3 3.8 8.0 21.2 94.5 57.0 53.8 5.9
Dabar, whole grain 2.1 3.1 3.6 8.2 22.1 95.4 54.9 52.4 6.1
Feterita, whole grain 1.9 3.1 3.5 8.2 22.7 95.8 48.6 46.6 6.2
Dabar, decorticated (79% extraction) 1.9 3 1 3.5 8.3 22.4 100.0 53.5 53.5 6.1
Feterita, decorticated (80% extraction) 1.6 3.0 3.5 8.6 23.5 99.6 43.9 43.7 6.5
Dabar, ugali, whole grain 2.1 3.0 3.5 7.9 21.6 87.5 60.8 53.2 6.0
Dabar, ugali (acid)whole grain 2.1 3.0 3.4 7.8 21.3 94.4 54.5 51.4 6.5
Feterita, ugali, whole grain 1.9 3.2 3.5 7.9 22.4 82.4 58.3 48.0 6.8
Tetron, kisra, whole grain 2.3 3.2 3.6 8.1 22.2 92.8 52.7 48.9 5.5
Feterita, kisra, whole grain 2.3 3.1 3.5 8.5 24.0 93.2 50.8 47.3 3.8
Dabar, kisra, decorticated (79% extraction) 2.3 3.0 3.7 8.9 25.3 96.9 55.3 53.4 6.7
LSD05           1.2 1.2 1.3 0.2

Source: Eggum et al., 1983.


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