Porridge has been a staple part of the Indian breakfast table since time immemorial. While oat porridge is a western import, India too has a large repertoire of both sweet and savoury porridges each with their own regional twist. Like most things in life, diversity is the key to balance, and food grains are certainly no different. Many of these porridges are made with hardy millets and the recipes are intuitive, easy to make and extremely nutritious. There are several reasons to believe in the magic of millets. They are high in vitamin B, calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, and magnesium. But here are the two lesser known favourite reasons:
Firstly, consuming millets means you are probably eating organic, without the fashionable price tag. Most millets are not popular as commercial crops (like rice or wheat are), and are grown by poor farmers. They are very hardy and need little water and are naturally pest resistant. Due to this resilience, these “forgotten miracle grains”, are usually organic, in the sense of little or no pesticide or weedicide use; and they are also affordably priced.
Secondly, there is a way to eat healthy and shed the post baby weight too. A lot of the traditional “infant food” recipes in South India are Ragi or millet based. They are also usually the best way to keep mummy lean! Win-win situation, because children learn everything, including eating healthy only by example.
Back to the breakfast porridges dilemma. With the crowding out of grocery store shelves with ever increasing convenient and sugary options for breakfast, it may feel like Goldilocks has been eating away at our porridge. While we are left eating a more “standardized” and often very sugary meal.
So, let’s look at the rainbow of traditional breakfast porridges.
Malted ragi or malted finger millet porridge is sprouted ragi flour, dry roasted and powdered. Mix the powder in cold milk to ensure no lumps and then cook for a few minutes with cocoa powder and add honey, jaggery or palm sugar to taste. Which child is going to refuse a chocolate porridge for breakfast? Better still, this one has the vitamin C and iron to knock out a prizefighter!
Kambu koozhu is a porridge made of pearl millet or bajra, as it is known in Rajasthan and Maharashtra. Like most porridges, the process involves soaking in water, grinding, cooking for a few minutes and then seasoning to taste.
Kanjhi is a rice porridge made in homes in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Conjee, as it is known elsewhere, is also a staple meal in China and many other East Asian and Southeast Asian cultures. The yummy kind involves cooking rice with jaggery/gud and coconut. It is often given to young children or older and infirm people, as it is easy to digest.
Dalia is this the Hindi term for broken cereals. The most common dalia is wheat-based. Cook it in water, add milk and cook for a few more minutes. Then add honey, banana and nuts. High on protein – makes this a great breakfast for both adults and children.
Drumstick leaf kanzi is now showing up on lists of super foods as drumstick leaves or moringa. They are being dubbed as nature’s multivitamin fix (with significant amounts of vitamin C and A, calcium and potassium), It is typically made by pressure cooking it with rice, green gram dal in equal part to the leaves, and then seasoned with spices to taste.
With less and less time for the first meal of the day, it is more than critical nowadays to have the best possible start especially for our children who need a lot of energy to get through their active day. As breakfast options, these are interesting ways to begin the day on a healthy and nutritious note for them.
Meghana Narayan and Shauravi Malik
Two mums on a mission and founders of Slurrp Farm. Meghana used to lead the public health practise at McKinsey India, and has studied at Harvard Business School, was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University and a Computer Science engineer. She was also on the Indian national swimming team and it is her personal goal to up the nutrition table for Indian kids. Shauravi used to work for the Virgin Group, and in the Consumer and Healthcare team at JP Morgan in London. She studied Economics at Cambridge University and at St. Stephen’s College in Delhi University, and has always loved food and eating it, after a fussy start as a toddler