What’s Cara Cooking? Millet-Pumpkin Kugel

What’s Cara Cooking? Millet-Pumpkin Kugel

Nourish the Earth for the New Year: Let’s Eat Millet Pumpkin Kugel Recipe this Rosh Hashanah

As the seasons change, we move into the Earth Season of the Chinese Calendar. It’s not summer. It’s not fall. This is late summer, which we call the fifth season. Everyone intuitively feels its difference. 

It’s the season of the Earth Element. In Chinese philosophy, it’s associated color with the color yellow, and its flavor is sweet. The grain associated with the earth element is millet, which is yellow. Of course, it is! Farmers’ market stalls groan with abundant produce. Yellow and orange squashes predominate the cornucopia.

Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, starts Friday evening. This joyous occasion is a time for reflection and renewal: introspection, gratitude, and coming together with loved ones. It’s a moment to come together to appreciate life’s sweetness.

And what better way to celebrate this special day than with a dish that combines the traditions of the Jewish Holiday with the principles of a seasonal Chinese diet?

Every year, we buy pumpkins to decorate the house and the offices. And every year, I cook and puree all the pumpkin. And every year, I’m overwhelmed with containers of pumpkin that I give to my neighbors and then freeze. 

I’m bored to tears with noodle kugel. I also have a pantry of grains, beans, and spices. I have a kind of addiction to buying ingredients. I found a jar of millet and scoured the internet for recipes with millet and pumpkin. I modified some recipes from the internet, and voila! Millet Pumpkin Kugel turned out to be delicious and a keeper!

Not familiar with Millet? I encourage you to get to know it!

Millet, known as “小米” (xiǎo mǐ) in Chinese, has been an essential staple in Chinese diets. It has a long history in Chinese culture and was one of the earliest cultivated grains in the region. It played a crucial role in ancient Chinese agriculture and cuisine. Different regions in China may have their own unique ways of incorporating millet into their diets. For example, millet is a staple grain in northern China, while rice is more commonly consumed in southern China.

Millet balances Yin and Yang: In Chinese dietetics, balance is a key concept, and millet is often seen as a grain that helps balance and harmonize Yin and Yang energies in the body. 

Millet is considered soothing to the digestive system and is sometimes recommended for individuals with digestive discomfort or conditions like gastritis.

    Because millet is a seed and not a grain, it is relatively easy to digest, making it suitable for those with digestive issues or weak digestive systems. We often recommend it for people recovering from illnesses or digestive ailments. See my blog with lots of congee recipes. It’s also gluten-free!

    I created this dish by merging several recipes using millet as a kugel base. I’m not very precise about recipes, but I was a chef, so I have a clear sense of proportions. Also, Kugel is forgiving. You really can’t screw it up. And you can be flexible. Want to use Quinoa? Go ahead! Got that jar of black rice languishing in your cabinet? By all means, be my guest and use it! Want to make it a sweet dish? Omit the onions and curry, don’t use broth, and then a little sugar or honey cinnamon, apricots, and raisins. 

    Cara’s Millet Pumpkin Kugel

    2 TBS olive oil or butter

    1 onion, diced.

    1 cup millet

    2 cups water or broth

    2 cups pumpkin puree (canned or homemade)

    1 1/2 cups cottage cheese

    3 large eggs

    1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

    1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs: parsley, dill. I’ll be using garlic chives this year.

    2 teaspoons curry powder

    1 teaspoon ground cumin

    1 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)

    1/2 teaspoon black pepper

    1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

    Cooking spray or additional olive oil for greasing


    1. Prepare the Millet:

    Chop the onion and sauté until soft. Add the millet and cook, stirring often, until lightly toasted. This makes it taste better and also prevents the millet from getting mushy. 

    Add the water or broth and cover. Reduce heat and cook until the liquid is absorbed. 

    Remove from heat and let it cool slightly.

    2. Preheat the Oven:

    Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C).

    Grease a 9×13 inch (23×33 cm) baking dish with cooking spray or olive oil.

    3. Mix the Wet Ingredients:

    Combine the pumpkin puree, cottage cheese, eggs, grated Parmesan cheese, chopped herbs, curry powder, ground cumin, salt, black pepper, and ground nutmeg in a large mixing bowl.

    Mix well until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

    4. Add the Cooked Millet:

    Gently fold the cooked millet and onions into the wet mixture until evenly distributed.

    5. Transfer to the Baking Dish:

    Pour the millet and pumpkin mixture into the greased baking dish, spreading it evenly. I’ll be decorating mine with garlic chive flowers.

    6. Bake:

    Place the baking dish in the preheated oven and bake for approximately 40-45 minutes, or until the Kugel is set and the top is lightly golden brown.

    Remove the Kugel from the oven and cool slightly before slicing and serving. You can make this a couple days in advance and reheat.

    May this new year bring blessings, joy, and a table filled with delicious food and loving company. L’shanah tovah u’metukah! A happy and sweet New Year to you all!