This has been an eventful summer for the African Heritage & Health Program. For me, the highlight has been drafting the forthcoming A Taste of African Heritage (ATOAH) children’s curriculum. We’re extremely excited to be oﬀering a version of ATOAH that is suitable for children between the ages of 8 to 12 — we’ve certainly gotten inquiries over the years about adapting the series materials for younger audiences.
While the heart of the curriculum is similar to the version that we all know and love — modeled on the six existing lessons and the African Heritage Diet Pyramid — we’ve optimized it for a younger audience. First, we’ve added an introductory lesson to give students more cultural and historical context for the six-week journey on which they are about to embark. We’re also incorporating more sensory experiences and activities, new recipes, and some historical proﬁles about notable chefs, inventors, culinary historians, and food activists. Some of our nutritional concepts are necessarily simpliﬁed, and we try to give students more of a sense of how certain dishes are similar across the Diaspora.
While ATOAH is not ATOAH without a teacher demonstration of Sweet Potato Mafe (it is just that good!), we also needed to take a diﬀerent approach with regard to recipes. Recipes for children need to be more straightforward without a lot of chopping and prepping. And we also wanted to include some recipes that feature less familiar ingredients in familiar ways. Enter millet.
Millet is a whole grain popular in West Africa that can be eaten at every meal: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even dessert (in the form of thiakry, which is millet mixed with yogurt and sometimes condensed milk). The original ATOAH curriculum introduces millet in a savory form. The ﬁrst version of our millet recipe had sweet potatoes and broccoli. Subsequently, it was reinvented, and the curriculum recipe now includes zucchini, raisins, and chickpeas.
But in the children’s curriculum, you’ll ﬁnd a breakfast millet porridge (recipe below) to start the day. We take some ﬂavors that are tried and true (banana, nuts, and cinnamon) and make a non-dairy breakfast cereal. The great thing is that you can let your creativity roam free — try a 100% fruit puree swirled in (pineapple, mango, or papaya), vary the spices (ras el hanout, cloves and/or nutmeg are nice) or the non-dairy milks (e.g., light coconut milk or cashew milk instead of almond), or swap the almond butter for cashew or peanut butter. Feel like a bit of cocoa? Mix in a teaspoon and half as the millet is simmering. You can also customize your toppings: toasted coconut and/or nuts and sliced or diced fruit are just a few ideas.
RECIPE: Banana Millet Breakfast Porridge
Yield: 2 servings
Total Time: 30 minutes (plus 1 day soaking)
- ½ cup millet, pre-soaked overnight
- 2 cups water
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 large ripe banana
- ½ cup almond milk or other milk of choice
- 1 tablespoon almond butter or nut butter of choice
- 1 teaspoon honey (optional)
- Drain the millet and add it to a medium saucepan. Toast the millet over low to medium heat, until it is slightly browned and gives oﬀ a nutty aroma, about 3 to 5 minutes. Be careful not to burn the millet.
- Add the water and cinnamon to the saucepan with the millet. Raise the heat to medium high so that the water will start to boil. Once the water is boiling, turn the heat down to low and cover. Let the millet simmer for approximately 20 minutes, or until it becomes creamy and the water has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and leave the cover on.
- Mash the banana with a fork and add to the millet. In a small bowl, whisk the almond milk and almond butter together, and add to the millet, stirring to incorporate. Taste, and add the honey if desired. Return the millet to low heat for 2 to 3 minutes until warmed through. Serve as is, or add extra almond milk, sliced bananas, or nuts as garnish.
Note: You can make this recipe without pre-soaking the millet, but the texture will be coarser and you may need to add additional almond milk to loosen the grain. Also plan to add approximately 5 minutes of cooking time to the millet before adding the banana and other ingredients.
If you have about ⅓ cup of the millet porridge left over, chill it, and add to a cup of plain yogurt without added sugar. You can adjust the sweetness with additional honey or fruit puree to make a thiakry-inspired breakfast, snack or dessert. With so many permutations, who could get bored? Millet — it’s a grain for all ages (and meals)!
Johnisha Levi, Program Manager, African Heritage & Health