Millet and summer stew with black beans and hominy

Summer stew and millet

First we see a beautiful black and white shot of majestic mountains. Into the frame come the head and shoulders of a samurai, his back to us. He stands and looks up at the mountains for a few moments. And then he hunches his shoulders and scratches his head. He’s got fleas! We follow the back of his shaggy head as he walks, and without even seeing his face, we learn so much about him, from his posture and his gait. It’s Toshiro Mifune, baby! Surely one of the most charismatic actors of all time! As he walks, he comes across a farmer berating his son. The son wants to go off and join a gang of gamblers because, as he says, it’s better than a long life eating gruel. The film, of course, is Yojimbo, by Akira Kurosawa. It’s an action-packed film, with plenty of sword fights and intrigue, but, as with many of Kurosawa’s films, the real struggle concerns extreme poverty and deprivation. In this film, as in Seven Samurai, the inhabitants of a small rural town literally have nothing to eat but rice or millet, and they’re in danger of losing that. The samurai that fight for their lives and often to their deaths, are fighting for grain, fighting so that the son of a farmer can have a long life eating gruel. As with all of my favorite films, it’s the humanity and humor mixed with the drama that resonates. We love the samurai as much because he’s rootless, confused, and has fleas as we do because he’s charming and a brilliant swordsman. As I’ve mentioned many times, I’m a peaceful person of low ambition, and I think I could enjoy a long life eating gruel, if the gruel was as tasty as I could possibly make it!

It was partially because of Kurosawa that I went out and bought some millet. I’ve made it in the past, but not very well. I wanted to try again. I used a basic technique, described by Madhur Jaffrey, of toasting and then steaming the grains. But I cooked them in broth instead of water. It turned out delicious!! Everyone in the family liked it! Soft, but fluffy and flavorful. I’m a millet fan! I also made a sort of summery stew of lots of vegetables mixed with black beans and golden hominy. (You could easily substitute white hominy!) You could call it CSA stew, because I used up a lot of the veg we got this week. I seasoned it with smoked paprika, sage, and chipotle, and we ate it with toasted strips of tortilla. Everybody liked everything!!

One of the absolute best things about Yojimbo is the soundtrack. It reminds me of RZA’s soundtrack for Ghost Dog. (High praise indeed!!) Here’s Big Trouble, from the sound track.

THE BROTH (you can use any broth you have for this!)

2 T olive oil
a few tiny heads of garlic, roughly chopped (skins and all)
1 shallot roughly chopped (skin and all)
1 carrot washed and roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
1 t sage
1/4 t marmite
2 t tamari
1/3 cup french lentils
a few mushrooms – roughly chopped

Warm the olive oil in a big sauce pan. Add everything else and stir well. Add any other veg you have lying around – lettuce leaves, a potato. Apparently skip the brassica, but anything else is fine.

Cool over medium-high heat till it’s all sizzly and toasty – ten minutes maybe. The add about 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for a while. At least half an hour, longer is fine, if you’re just hanging around the house. Drain and set aside.


3/4 cup millet – toasted in a small saucepan over medium heat till it’s lightly brown and smells toasty and sweet

Put the millet in a medium-sized saucepan with 1 1/2 cups broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to very low. Cover tightly and cook for 1/2 hour. Add a few tablespoons of boiling water. Stir, cover, remove from heat and leave for at least 15 minutes, or until the rest of your meal is ready. Stir in a tablespoon of butter, salt and pepper, and fluff it up!!


2 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic – minced
4 scallions – white part mostly, minced
1 t fennel seeds
1 t oregano
1 zucchini cut into small dice
1 can black beans rinsed and drained
1 can golden hominy, rinsed and drained
1 tomato, chopped
2 cups broth
1 cups chard, cleaned and chopped, stems removed
1 1/2 t paprika
1/2 t chipotle (or to taste)
1 t balsamic
small handful of fresh basil, chopped
knob of butter
salt and plenty of pepper

Warm the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and scallions, and stir and fry till the garlic starts to brown. Add the zucchini, and cook till it’s translucent. Add the beans and hominy, and the tomato. Stir and cook for 5 or 10 minutes. Stir gently, so you don’t mush up the hominy! Add the broth, the chard, the chipotle, and the paprika. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about ten minutes, till the chard is cooked through and wilted, but still bright and flavorful. Add the balsamic and the butter (if you’re using it), salt, pepper, and basil. Serve with the millet and some toasted strips of tortilla.


6 thoughts on “Millet and summer stew with black beans and hominy

  1. Ah, Millet. Millet and I go way back. When my first dog, Yan Jing, came into my life, I learned about millet. You see, I wanted my pup to live forever so I studied Dr. Pitcairn’s guide for cooking for dogs. Millet was a good, inexpensive source for nutrition. However, it came out whole in her stool. And Yan Jing and I thought it tasted yucky. So, I abandoned millet. Fast forward….Rebecca Wood’s “The Splendid Grain” book had the answer. Toast. Rinse in cold water. Rub. Then, cook. Check out her book for the history. She calls it ” the first polenta””. Now , when I feed it to my next gen Temple Dogs, their stool looks fine. I love how you match millet to poetry! Thanks Claire.

  2. Pingback: Creamy zucchini, walnut, and white bean sauce (with sage) | Out of the Ordinary

  3. Pingback: Millet & chickpea kofta | Out of the Ordinary

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