There is magic everywhere and usually when you are completely open to all that the universe can give you and often times when you are least expecting it, a little dust of magic is thrown your way and it changes your life for good.
This is how my munchkins and I felt and continue to feel when it comes to the ever powerful and all encompassing mother of all grains – Ragi. It’s fondly renamed as Mithu Khana in our house.
This post aint no fairytale but a detailed recipe. However if you embrace this grain, your family and you will be every youthful and sport fairy like complexions (because Ragi has awesome anti ageing properties – vital amino acids like Methionine and Lysine). Loaded with calcium and iron and even Vitamin B, this is a one-meal wonder.
Our love story with this grain began purely by chance. Soon after my second angel was born we moved to Bangalore and got ourselves a kick ass paediatrician (he will surely give you a earful if need be ☺). When Buttercup turned 4.5/5 months old, he demanded I introduce Ragi in her diet. Coming from the North and please keep in mind that we are talking about a couple of years ago, Ragi was not heard off in that part of India. Just to be sure it was not just the ignorant me, I checked with the elders in the family and no one had a clue. It definitely was nowhere close to the rage it is becoming today across India. A staple of South India – particularly Karnataka, my doctor thought I was just plain crazy to never have eaten this grain. So he gave me a step by step guide to use this powerful grain and ensured I follow it as per his detailed directions. Ragi for me is hands down the best weaning food because it is jam packed with nutrition and easy on the sensitive little tummies. Every fairytale has to have a villain and here the villain was the process of making the flour from the grain. If you are brave enough, have oodles of patience or have help, then follow it as recommended and you can be sure you are giving super nutritious, purest, organic food (click here for ‘why organic’) for the need to shift to organic) your baby will ever get. Here goes –
- Buy a pack of organic Ragi grains (nope not the powder – the whole tiny little grains).
- Wash them well and soak them overnight. They are super tiny grains so be prepared to work with these tiny powerhouses which will get left everywhere.
- Sprout the ragi seeds. If you have a sprout-making machine use that otherwise just the good old muslin cloth will work fine. Drain the water and hang the Ragi seeds in the damp muslin cloth. Depending on weather conditions, the ragi seeds will take 1-2 days to sprout. Sprouted flour is easier to digest by our tiny little babies. (So if you are giving it to the babies – definitely follow this step.)
- Once sprouted and dried, dry roast the sprouted ragi till its lightly toasted. Then using a good grinder machine – grind this roasted ragi. It has to be super super fine powder hence the ‘good’ grinder. I’m pretty sure I ruined my grinder grinding Ragi for months. But don’t fret too much if there is a little coarseness left, BECAUSE you now have to sieve this powder to ensure there are no grains left. The coarse grains can go back in the grinder. The devil is really in the details.
- Store this homemade organic ragi powder in an airtight container. I begged my doctor to let me just buy the powdered ragi from the market. After all I was living in the heartland of Ragi and there were possibly all conceivable forms of Ragi available, but he wouldn’t recommend it and without his approval I didn’t want to take a chance. I finally stopped steps 1-4 once Buttercup turned a year old and went out and bought the easy to use Organic Ragi powder. Figured her stomach would be stronger now. The kitchen thanked me for taking it out of the war zone.
- Once the powder is ready, its time for the wonderful porridge. Take 1tbsp of Ragi powder and add a quarter cup of water. Put this on a low flame and keep stirring. Do not let go of the stirring. Once it reaches an optimum temperature it will start to thicken very quickly. Seriously do not underestimate its thickening property. Its upto you on what kind of consistency you would like to feed the baby but its recommended that at the first sign of thickening, take it off the gas and serve warm in a semi liquid state. Like a thick soup.
- If this is the first food or one of the first solid foods your baby will eat then this is all you need to do. Do not add sugar / salt or any other taste enhancing element. Ragi has a natural mild sweetness to it. I tried it and guess my taste buds have been dumbed down thanks to all the heavy sweets we consume; I could barely feel the sweetness. But for your baby who doesn’t know otherwise, it will be perfect. How do I know? Because Buttercup lapped it, as have many other babies who have tried it. Also why get your baby into a sweet tooth mode so early on, if not required.
- This continues to be my kids favourite meal and it’s now got the moniker- ‘mithu khana’ because I now add organic Honey to it. How long could I resist adding sweetness to their meal? ☺
- For older toddlers I substituted the water for milk. The process is just the same with a few added layers. Once kiddos are 2 years and above, one can add a generous tablespoon of ghee and to that add add equal proportions of powdered oats and Ragi. Roast this on a slow fire for a couple of minutes and take it off the gas once you get that nice toasty smell. Once this is cooled i then add milk ( I typically make the roasted ragi-oats mixture well in advance and then when needed just add milk). Put this back on the gas and keep stirring – and soon it will start to thicken. I now serve it to them in porridge like consistency. Once it’s cooled down and warm, I add powdered walnuts and almonds and honey.
Buttercup took to it like fish to water and Peanut who was a good 2 years older lapped it up just as fast. Seeing the results, this grain was exported to near and dear ones in the North – especially those who had babies / young children. The Ragi trend soon caught on in the North and now organic Ragi is widely and easily available in most parts of India, so my exporting of the grain has stopped but the Ragi usage is just as rampant.
Especially since its now readily available, I thought it’s a good time to share the detailed recipe for the wonderful and tasty Ragi porridge.
Oh and if you want a restful night, feed this to your baby as an evening meal say around 6-7 pm. The little tummy feels full after a Ragi meal. Then feed her milk around 10ish and watch her snooze away a large part of the night.
Nothing better than a full tummy baby sleeping with a rested mother by her side. ☺ Its a kind of magic…dont you think?
To read more on how we got our babies sleeping through the night and in their own bed by 1 year click here
Disclaimer: This was recommended by our Paediatrician and worked for my kids. Please do check with your respective Paediatricians before starting on the Ragi journey.
Picture Courtesy: http://www.thehindu.com/multimedia/dynamic/02483/ragi_2483772f.jpg