Like many Chinese children, I grew up eating plenty of porridge (which, in the Chinese context, is savoury and usually made with white rice). It’s the sort of dish I still find comfort in when I’m feeling under the weather. But it’s not the one dish I’d pick if I had to eat only one thing for the rest of my life. So, when it comes to planning my one and a half year old son, T’s meals, I make it a point to offer him a wide range of alternatives (including red or brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, lentils, couscous, soba and pasta). Yet, one has to acknowledge that the soft texture of porridge makes it one of the easiest things to nourish wee rugrats with and I do serve T porridge regularly. So, I’ve tried to develop porridge recipes that appeal to T’s tastebuds while enabling me to hopefully deliver as much additional nutritional value as I possibly can (taking into consideration that I’m not speaking as a nutritionist). Brown rice, even the short grain variety isn’t very appealing when prepared as porridge. It can also be a little hard for a toddler to digest, especially when he’s not feeling well. Some time back, I chanced upon barley grits at the supermarket and thought I’d give them a try. I’m glad to report that T loves barley grits porridge.
Barley grits are hulled, toasted wholegrain barley that have been cracked into medium-coarse pieces and are a great source of fibre as well as selenium and other minerals. The catch is that barley grits take an interminable length of time to cook. I’ve made this work for me by simply cooking them in an electric/counter top double boiler (you can also use a slow cooker) that then enables me to step away from the kitchen while T’s lunch or dinner cooks. Using homemade chicken or vegetable stock ensures that the resulting porridge is tasty. Beyond that, you can always choose to replace the rest of the ingredients with your child’s favourite foods. I do realise that simmering diced vegetables for 3 hours pretty much zaps the vitamins out of them. They’re in my recipe more for flavour than anything else. You can also stir in quick cooking vegetables just before you serve your porridge.
Barley Grits Porridge
1 cup chicken/vegetable stock
2 tbs finely diced carrot
1 tbs baby corn kernels (from about 3 ears of baby corn)
3 tbs barley grits or 1 tbs shortgrain rice and 2 tbs barley grits
1 tbs finely minced leafy greens (such as spinach or sweet potato leaves)
35g finely diced fish fillet
Combine stock, carrot, baby corn, barley grits and rice, if using, in a double boiler or slow cooker. Cover and cook for 3 hours on the fast or highest setting (I have occasionally just left it simmering for longer if T isn’t quite ready for his meal). Just before serving, stir in the leafy greens and fish. Ensure that the fish is cooked through then serve immediately.