The Magic Ingredient

I was really excited when my daughter was turning 6 months. It was an opportunity to buy new stuff, silicon tipped spoons, bibs, high chair with cartoon prints, etc. Hardly did I know that once they begin eating they can also stop one day. This can practically give you convulsions. So enjoy the time before they start on solid foods. I thought of investigating the best way to introduce solid food to her, so asked my pediatrician, friends and family on “How to”. I read a lot of blogs and books and devised a strategy. After K’s annaprasam (ceremony of giving “anna” or food for the first time) I gave her cooked rice water for few days. After she took it well, I started giving her cooked dal (lentil) water in the evening while continuing the rice water in the morning. And mind you no salt or sugar yet! I decided that I will continue like this for a month giving her only cereals of different kinds for 6 weeks. Later adding vegetables and then adding fruits after a month each. I thought this will give her time to get accustomed to different food flavors before expressing preference of any food. I don’t know if this is going to make her a good eater but I thought of giving all the bland food a leg up in her flavors domain.

I looked back to what I ate first and what my mom did. In many parts of Southern India, ragi (finger millet) is the first food that the babies are introduced to. Many of my friends across different cultures also use ragi as an active ingredient in baby foods. Grandmothers and mothers took a fistful of ragi and soaked it overnight. They grind it to a loose paste and cooked it on a low flame to result in a lumpy porridge. This was my first food. I recently read an article about malnourished children in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh Integrated Nutrition Project studied that the children during and after weaning were fed with low calorie diluted starchy cereal which resulted in decreased growth rate across babies in between 6-24 months. So they encouraged mothers to give their babies sprouted cereals like ragi (or any other locally grown cereal) and started distributing them through community centers. So after a lot of talk about ragi I did a quick search to find its nutritive value and this is what I found:

Nutritive value of Ragi per 100 g (source: Wikipedia)

Protein         7.3 g
Fat             1.4 g
Carbohydrate    72 g
Minerals         2.7 g
Calcium         344 mg
Fiber             3.6 g

Energy         328 kCal

Now that we have our magic ingredient, lets start! This receipe is volume and proportion based. Pick any small size of cup to begin with.

Ragi powder (finger millet): 6 cups
Broken Wheat: 2 cups
Brown Rice: 2 cups

Green gram (you can also use Soya bean): 1 cup
Black gram: 1 cup

Almonds: 1/4 cup
Walnuts: 1/4 cup
Ground nuts: 1/4 cup
Sesame seeds: 1/4 cup

First time when I was over enthusiastic, I soaked whole ragi, whole wheat, green gram, and black gram altogether for a day. After removing the water, I tied them in a fine cloth and kept it for 24 hrs again. Frequently sprayed some water on them. By the end of the third day they started sprouting. Once the sprouts broke I sun dried them for 3-4 days till they make a crackling sound when you break the sprouts. The whole process of sprouting enriches these grains tremendously. An enzyme called amylase is generated in them which helps in breaking the carbs and is easily digested and absorbed by the body. Next step is to grind the sprouted grains and brown rice into a fine powder, then grind all the nuts separately and finally mix them altogether. The nuts should be ground separately as they become sticky because of their oil content.

Second time I looked out for some shortcuts and found that there is organic sprouted ragi powder available in the market. So I ground the wheat, rice, green and black gram together and powdered nuts separately. Mix all of them together and your porridge powder is ready!

There is a ton of ways to cook the porridge powder.

Here is the classic style. Take one table spoon of the porridge powder and mix well with a cup of water. Add a little bit of jaggery (if the baby is already introduced to sweet). Add 1/2 teaspoon of butter or ghee. Now put this mixture on the stove and stir it continuously so that it doesn’t make lumps. Cook it for 5-7 mins till the consistency is ketchup like. For babies who have been introduced to animal milk you can add some or put two scoops of formula after it cools off. Instead of jaggery put salt and add mashed veggies and here is your soup. My daughter has had loads and loads of this and when she got bored I tried something else.

Take a spoonful of porridge powder and add some salt and water to make it a dosa batter like consistency. Leave it aside of 10-15 mins. Pour on to a hot tava and sprinkle chopped spinach or spring onions.

There are different versions of the magic ingredient and hope to share some more later.

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