Porridge is really the staple food for Chinese babies. In my opinion, it is a very good baby food because it is delicious, easy to cook, easy to eat, easy to digest and one can easily make it a balanced diet by adding the right ingredients.
Porridge is also a comfort food. Nothing beats a steaming bowl of porridge on a cold day, or when one is not feeling too well. To me, porridge is very much associated with ‘mother’, ‘comfort’ and ‘love’, as I remember younger days when my mother cooked porridge for me when I fell sick. I am sure if you grew up in a typical Chinese family, and porridge was part of your staple growing up food, you will know what I mean.
Now it is my turn to cook porridge for my own child. I know it is not easy to come up with variations to tempt the fussy taste buds of a toddler AND at the same time, making sure that the porridge makes up a balance diet. I usually take care to ensure that my porridge has the basic carbohydrates (rice), protein (e.g. grains, beans, meat or eggs) and veggies (for fibre and vitamins, etc). Feel free to adapt, to invent and experiment with different ingredients. You will be surprised how things turn up sometimes. And I certainly won’t mind you emailing me your creations. I could use some ideas from you!
There are more than one way to cook porridge (technically) but the method I adopted for my recipes worked the best for me. Basically, for my method, you must have chicken stock first. Even for fish and beef porridge, I will still cook with chicken stock. The portion is standard : 1½ cups Stock (approx.) and ½ cup rice. This will yield a basic chicken porridge of about 3 (Dominic’s) servings, enough for 2 meals for the day, plus 1 extra serving for just-in-case situation. What I normally do is to immediately scoop up one serving into a microwavable and freeze-able container and straight away store in my freezer. That way, technically, I cook 2 days and rest 1 day.
If you are adding other types of grains, e.g. brown rice or millet or even beans, you will have to proportionately reduced the amount of white rice. E.g. ¼ cup of brown rice in place of ¼ cup of white rice to make ½ cup of rice (mixture).
For the meat, even though I use chicken and fish most of the time, you can put pork or beef in place of the stated chicken or fish.
All you have to do is to throw all ingredients into a slow pot with the stock (which you must first heat up to almost boiling) and cook on “HIGH” for about 1½ – 2 hours.
Alternatively, you can cook using a normal pot over open stove fire. Cook over medium fire until boil, then turn down the fire and simmer until porridge is done. Remember to stir often to avoid burning at the base of the pot!
The easiest way to cook porridge, even if you cook every single day, is to basically use whatever ingredients you are using for the family’s meal. E.g. if you are cooking a chicken dish, a veggie dish involving cauliflower and tomatoes, use the same ingredients for the porridge you are making for your baby. Simply chop up the veggies into manageable texture or blend after cooking (depending on the age of your baby).
- When you buy meat for the purpose of cooking your baby’s porridge, store in individual portions of 2-3 tablespoon for minced meat, or cut pieces of appropriate size. That way you don’t have to thaw everything when you need to use only a small portion and re-freeze whatever you don’t need, which is very bad to do.
- Try to have at least 2-3 variations of veggies for a week. Buy smaller quantity of each if you are not going to use them for your other cooking. You can use your kitchen scissors to cut raw leafy veggies, which I find is easier than to chop them.
- Some harder veggies e.g. carrots, may need longer time to cook. You can either chop them up really fine before cooking, or you can pre-cook them in the stock.
- Grains like beans, millet or brown rice is better to be pre-soaked for a few hours before cooking.
- When you cook a large pot of stock to be stored for cooking baby porridge, freeze into individual portions also.
- It’s handy to have a ready supply of frozen mixed vegetables or frozen peas. Or frozen cubes of pureed veggies, if your baby is still young. For days when fresh veggie supply runs low.