For a few days now my little terror has been terrorizing his wonderful daycare teachers. I miss him crawling around and gnawing at my toes. But this separation gives me some time to chart out a game plan before I go all corporate in a few weeks. I am always on the lookout for foods that pack a one-two punch of nutrition and flavor. My LO is not a very picky eater, but even at his age, he knows what he wants. I can't get him to eat beets or carrots no matter how cleverly I disguise them. Also, as Yoda might say, the curiosity is strong in this one. He wants to eat whatever we are eating no matter what. This means mom and dad also get to watch what they eat. Practice what we preach, in short.
For breakfast, I have been giving LO Ragi porridge or cereal. Ragi is the Indian (Hindi) name for finger millet. This is a very traditional Indian baby food that should really fit into grown up meals as well. It is chock full of nutrients especially calcium and the highly sought after mineral, iron. You can buy ragi powder from ethic Indian stores, dissolve them in cold water and boil them to make the porridge, but this yields a grainy cereal which may be less palatable and more importantly too aggressive for the newly acquired set of infant gut bacteria. The elders advice you to soak the ragi for a few days, allow it to germinate and sprout, then dry in the sun and powder it. Now use it for making the porridge. With my two wonderfully black thumbs, I managed to make two moldy batches of ragi seeds, before somewhat admitting defeat. Until a good friend suggested another way of soaking and grinding the seeds for a happy middle ground.
For those not familiar with ragi or finger millet, it looks like dark brown mustard seeds and soaking them helps improve the bio availability of the nutrients.
To make the porridge, you need to soak about 3 table spoons of the millet seeds in ample water overnight. Do this after tucking your LO into bed. Actually more soaking time, upto 24 hours, is also said to be beneficial, because the seeds are then in the stage of near germination.
In the morning, drain the soaked seeds and place in a blender
Add 1/2 a cup of water to the blender and blend till the seeds are well pulverized
Pour the blended mixture into a fine cheese cloth or jelly strainer or nut milk bag and squeeze out the milk.
Add the milk to a saucepan and bring it to a boil on medium heat. Be sure to stire often otherwise, the mixture will get lumpy as it thickens.
Once it reaches a consistency your baby likes, turn off the stove and serve as is or with any toppings.
At this point your ragi porridge is a blank canvas to add different flavorings. Here are some of my little dumplings favorite toppings
- jaggery (unrefined Indian sugar, with molasses intact)
- stewed and pureed prunes
- stewed and pureed dates and goji berries
- salt, powdered cumin and a touch of yogurt
I have been giving this porridge or kanji to my LO since he was 7 months old. As he gets older and his digestion gets mature, I will transition to using store bought ragi powder.
I would love to learn about traditional baby foods in other cultures, so please share your recipes in the comments.