I thought I new about grains. All of them, and more. Until someone recently asked me about popped sorghum. Popped sorghum? Why would one try this at home? Such small seeds! Isn’t it too much of a bother? Well, a dozen tests later, I report back that I find the light little seeds addictive in the best of ways, with a lot more flavor than most popcorn.
Gluten-free sorghum is a fabulous whole grain worth exploring, popped or not. I had sorghum the first time while living and working in India as a journalist. My husband’s family is originally from western India. We visited a remote village in the state of Gujarat where his family is from. During research for an hour-long radio story, I met a milk collector who made amazing huge chapati-style flatbreads, about a foot in diameter, using freshly milled local sorghum. It was in the wee hours of the morning, around 5 AM, when she invited us into her dark small hut where she prepared these giant nourishing flatbreads over an open flame. I wish I had taken notes. What was most impressive was how she was able to create a surprisingly malleable dough from this gluten-free grain. We ate them with our hands, still warm, drizzled with melted ghee and sugar.
Also, below, I’m sharing a few of my favorite moments from the past month on book tour which took me to Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Chicago. I was somewhat anxious going on tour as authors do exchange endless stories of exhaustion and more among themselves. While book tours are indeed tiring, I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy traveling with my second book. And the best part was realizing that some of you actually were there the first time around. Thank you to everyone for showing up, especially to all of you who came not just to get my new cookbook signed, but who also brought the first one along to get it signed as well. The stained copies made me most happy. Meeting you, readers, friends, and colleagues was the icing on my cake on this trip. It was a hella good journey, a new expression I recently learned from my cool American colleagues. Indeed, hella good. Thank you!
Starting with Internet research and a recipe on the sorghum package from Bob’s Red Mill, I made a few more tweaks. Many people recommend to not use any oil when popping sorghum. I agree—the oil will burn before the sorghum pops. If you like, you can spray on a bit of olive oil for aroma at the end.
After about a dozen tests, I had the most consistent results when I followed my own recipe for popping corn. This includes a tip by Cook’s Illustrated to allow the kernels to evenly heat during a short time off the flame once the pot is preheated. This method resulted in the least amount of burnt and unpopped kernels, about 3/4 teaspoon. But, no worries, unlike with regular popcorn you won’t break your teeth on these small crunchy kernels. In fact, the dark nuggets tastes just as good as the popped ones, if not better.
Yield: 1 cup popped sorghum
1/4 cup (50g) whole grain sorghum
Extra-virgin olive oil, for spraying (optional)
Aleppo pepper or dried red chile flakes, to taste
Flakes of sea salt, crushed between your fingers, to taste
1 Have a small bowl at the ready near the stove. Add about 5 tiny sorghum kernels to a large heavy-bottom saucepan over medium-high heat. Cover and wait until 2 or 3 kernels pop, 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Pay close attention as they will pop gently, almost inaudibly. Wearing oven mitts, remove the pot from the heat. Add the remaining sorghum and shake to spread the grains. Cover and allow to sit for 30 seconds, then return over medium-high heat.
2 Shaking the pot frequently, with the lid a crack ajar, heat until the crackly activity slows down a fair bit, about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes more. I recommend, about halfway through, to turn down the heat to medium. There will always be some smoke but this reduces the number of darkened kernels.
3 Immediately pour the sorghum into the bowl. Spray on some olive oil for flavor, then sprinkle with Aleppo pepper and flaked sea salt. Eat while warm.
Popped sorghum is delicious on its own, and tastes best when fresh. You can also use it to top soups or salads, or even sprinkle a tablespoon on your morning oatmeal.
Store leftovers in an airtight container for a few days.