When it was time to introduce Zack to rice porridge, I was researching for ways to prepare this typical Asian baby staple for my little one. I tried out a few of the recipes found on the web, and after some tweaking and perfecting; I’m happy to share with all moms (and grandmoms) my fail proof method of cooking yummy porridge for your baby or toddler.
Preparing porridge in small quantities
When Zack familiarised himself with eating instant rice cereal, it was about time he was introduced to the real deal. At 7 months old he still couldn’t eat much, hence the real challenge here was to cook small portions of porridge without it getting burnt.
I first tried a method I picked up from another mom blogger, which was to wash the rice grains, dry it in a slow oven, ground it to powder form, and then cook it for 15-20 minutes stirring over low heat with a small amount of water. Although this may seem like the fastest way to make porridge, it didn’t give the sort of texture I was looking for. It looked and felt like really thick glue!
I continued to look for alternative means of preparing porridge in small quantities, and my mom suggested that I use a ceramic mug that’s meant for double boiling. With the help of this website, I used the recommended ratio of 1 portion of rice to 8 portions of water to get a pretty good consistency.
My mom also shared with me an important step when double boiling – I needed to ensure that I used hot, boiled water in both the crock pot and the ceramic mug. This step is essential in order to start the cooking process immediately as a slow cooker tends to take a longer time to come to a boil. The water should cover the ceramic mug up to 80% of the way. This makes sure there is even distribution of heat (and cooking power) inside the mug.
Now, I’m using a slow cooker instead of a pot over a gas stove for 2 reasons. With the slow cooker, the heat is more even and constant, and because it does not come to a continuous boil, the ceramic mug does not need to be held in place with a towel / wire rack. Secondly, the slow cooker can be hooked up to a timer, making it an easy and safe way to prepare porridge. When cooking over the gas stove I noticed that when set at the lowest heat, the water still comes to a ferocious boil, making my ceramic mug “dance” around. I also very often have to replenish the water it is immersed in as it evaporates quite a lot.
- Try to keep water level at 70% if cooking over gas. You never know when water may seep into your ceramic mug, esp if it is bubbling constantly. If you have to you may use aluminium foil to cover the mug before closing the lid.
- Cooking time with slow cooker – approx 3.5 to 4 hours
- Cooking time over the gas stove at the lowest heat – approx 2 – 2.5 hours
Preparation is key
I am always looking for quick ways to get things done. When it comes to preparing bub’s porridge, I found that preparation is essential to making this mommy duty less of a chore (not that it’s a chore but there are days where I wish there’s some automated porridge maker, lol!). I am an advocate of freezing food—I love to prepare everything in large batches, and keep them stored and frozen in single servings.
For cooking small quantities of porridge, I use ice cube trays and food pots to store soup stocks and pureed vegetables. I use a milk powder scoop to measure the ingredients as I find that it’s a good size, and a pretty handy measuring tool (this is very important when you need to “level” the ingredients to get an accurate quantity). Here are my tried and tested measurements:
1 “milk powder scoop” of rice + 8 “milk powder scoops” of stock + 1 ice cube of pureed vegetable
Alternatively, to save space, you can also use ice cube trays to freeze measured stock (the ones pictured were purchased from Daiso, comes with a lid). I then keep these cubes in Ziploc bags to free up space in the fridge. Here’s the measurement if using stock in cubes:
1 “milk powder scoop” of rice + 3 ice cubes of stock (approx. 8 “milk powder scoops” of stock) + 1 ice cube of pureed vegetable
You can also use ikan bilis powder as an alternative to preparing stock. Simply soak cleaned ikan bilis to get rid of most of the saltiness, bake in the oven until crisp, and then grind into powder form. Add a pinch of this ikan bilis powder to your 8 “milk powder scoops” of plain water. A little goes a long way.
Preparing porridge in larger quantities
As Zack grew older, his appetite (and stomach) also grew bigger. I could now prepare his porridge directly in the slow cooker. All I had to do was simply measure out the ingredients, and put everything into the crock pot before I go to bed. I left it to the timer to switch the power on and off.
Just remember to keep to the tried and tested measurement which is the ratios of 1 portion of grain to 8 portions of water. For Zack, I prepare 2 servings of porridge for his lunch and dinner using the below measurements:
3 “milk powder scoops” of millet + 3 “milk powder scoops” of rice + 2 cubes of vegetables and 1 cube of meat (fish/chicken/pork) + 2 cups of water (approx. 500ml)
This measurement can yield exactly 2 cups of porridge (about 2 regular Chinese rice bowls).
Tip: As I leave all ingredients in the crockpot for 6 hours at room temperature, it is not neccesary to use hot, boiled water as the cooking process will not commence till later. I just use room temperature water. There are some concerns about whether the meat/vege will spoil while immersed in this room temperature water for 6 hours. I can safely say no as the ingredients start off as frozen blocks, plus it does take some time before fully defrosting. The kitchen is also relatively cool at night, hence the crockpot in itself remains cool and insulated until it is time to cook.
Timing is everything
I used my trusty timer (purchased from Ikea) which allowed me to leave my porridge making in auto-cruise.
I set it to start at point “1” every night at about the same time, combine all my ingredients, and let it sit (and soak) until the cooking process begins 6 hours later. I allow the porridge to cook for 4 hours before it switches off automatically.
Choice of ingredients suitable for porridge
You can be creative with the choice of ingredients you put into your bub’s porridge. Just remember the ratio of grains to water is always 1:8 (omg i sound like a broken record already)
Some grains I’ve experimented with are millet, lentils, split pea (dhall), oats and even alphabet pasta. You can substitute white rice with brown rice, and even add grains like quinoa. The combinations are endless!
The quantity of vegetables is also entirely up to you. I personally like to put in a ratio of 2:1 vegetables to meat.
Some vegetables which cook well in porridge include broccoli, pumpkin, carrot, peas, spinach, siew pak choy, cauliflower, potato and sweet potato. For younger babies, remember to pre-cook all vegetables and puree before storing. For older babies who can handle chunks, just chop the vegetables into small pieces and give it a quick mash before serving.
Tip: You can store chopped vegetables in a big Ziploc bags or in ice cube trays. If making into cubes, remember to pour a little water into the ice cube trays to help the vegetables “solidify” or else you’ll be handling a giant mess of vegetable crumbs when trying to remove them from the ice cube tray.
When using pork or chicken, make sure it’s finely minced. My mom helps with chopping it using her trusty cleaver. It has a better texture than working it through a food processor. As for fish, I just keep it sliced, as it’ll flake anyway when cooked. I freeze meat portions in a container, by separating it with cling wrap. You can also portion it out with an ice cube tray. Do whatever that floats your boat.
I hope you have found these tips useful (and helpful!) when preparing porridge for your baby! Happy Cooking!