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Posts Tagged ‘ragi’

Ragi Makes the World Go Round

In Recipes on 3 February 2017 at 8:00 pm

In between sessions at the Human Rights in Childbirth conference a young woman approached me and said, “Are you Amma?”  Not quite believing my ears I looked startled.  “From Ask Amma?” she continued.  Turns out, she learned to make ragi porridge right here on Ask Amma and her daughter enjoys it to this day.  What music to my heart!

When it comes to ragi, our enthusiasm knows no bounds!


Ragi Idli and Dosa, Take 1

In Recipes on 8 January 2016 at 12:03 pm
Mix 1 part sprouted ragi flour and 2 parts water, bring to a boil while stirring continuously. Video

Ragi: Not only for porridge. (Video)

Soon after I arrived in India, I visited Balaji in Chennai and met the folks of the Tamil Nadu Science Forum which took Balaji by storm (or was it the other way around?)  There I heard Ambarigi, Shanthi and other workers talk about the value of sattamavu, or ragi, sprouted and ground and easy to make into porridge. They focussed on encouraging parents to prepare it for young children and asked us and other well-wishers to help promote it by sponsoring a year’s worth of sattemavu for a family in need.  This Ravi and I did and later started a program to distribute ragi in Srikakulam as well.  It was not until six months after our daughter was born that we bought the stuff to make and eat ourselves.

As it turned out ragi porridge was an instant hit and we have been making it ever since.  I didn’t venture further in the millet department until a couple of years ago when I started using every variety of millet I could find.  Ragi, or finger millet was a regular part of our diet in the form of porridge.  What to do with the other kinds?  I tried them out in idli and dosa batter and they were great.  Soon I was making idlis and dosas out of Proso MilletKodo MilletLittle Millet and Pearl Millet (bajra).  I also made pulihara out of Foxtail Millet.

But what about Finger Millet?   Read the rest of this entry »

Ragi Porridge (not just for babies!)

In How, Recipes on 18 December 2012 at 3:51 am

Ragi Porridge (not just for babies!)

I haven’t used ragi ever …and till now I thought it was something like other grains – just buy it and cook it. All this sprouting thing is confusing me. Can anyone please explain how its done? Or how can I introduce ragi to my daughter? Do I need to sprout it?

– Krishna, mama of a 14 month old in Delhi

You can cook whole ragi directly, in upma and other preparations, but as a baby food, it is typically ground into flour and made into porridge.

You can eat it without sprouting, but sprouting improves its nutritional value.   Some (like me) also prefer the taste of sprouted ragi flour.

Yummy!  Ragi in a Cup

Yummy! Ragi in a Cup

In rural households, sprouting ragi at home is part of the routine work in the kitchen, just like cutting vegetables or making yougurt – even though one can buy ready-made yougurt or pre-cut vegetables in the urban supermarkets.  You will retain more nutrients and flavour if you buy your ragi whole and process it at home.  When my sister bought a flour grinder, I could easily taste the difference between bread baked with flour ground on the same day as compared to week-old flour.  Renewed interest in slow food has inspired urbanites to learn from their rural cousins.  Here is a beautiful site explaining how to sprout the ragi at home.

You can also buy sprouted ragi flour.  Our first packet came from a company called Dharani (Bangalore) and later we got it from Ecofarms, based in Yavatmal, or Conscious Foods (Mumbai) and now from Satvika, just a hop skip and a jump from us in Chembur.   In short, sprouted ragi flour is sprouting up everywhere 🙂   As more urban folks are becoming aware of its nutritional value and also forgetting the art of sprouting at home, the price of sprouted ragi flour has steadily risen and currently in Naturally Yours, our local organic shop in Chembur, the price is Rs. 70 for 500 grams.  Whole ragi comes for Rs. 49 per kilogram.
Since ragi absorbs some water during the sprouting process, you will need to add less water when cooking sprouted ragi flour than when cooking unsprouted ragi flour.An internet search  quickly yields several recipes for ragi porridge but all of them involve additional ingredients that we do not want to include in baby’s first food.

This ragi porridge is so simple it hardly merits a recipe, but then some people won’t believe it can be done so simply unless they see it described in loving detail on an internet site, so here we go.
Khiyali demonstrates how to make ragi porridge. 

1/4 cup ragi flour or 1/3 cup sprouted ragi flour.
1 cup water
In a pot, mix the ragi flour with cold (room-temperature) water.  Stir vigorously with a fork till it is nicely dissolved and there are no lumps.
Slowly bring to a boil over medium flame, stirring continuously.   As it comes to a boil, it thickens.  Once the ragi is thick, remove from flame and let sit for 10 minutes.
Ragi Porridge in a cup

Ragi Porridge in a cup

If you prefer a thicker porridge, you may increase the ragi by a spoon or two – just play around till you have the consistency you like.  To get a thick porridge using sprouted ragi flour, I usually use 1 cup flour with 2 cups water, as demonstrated in Ragi Porridge: the video.

You can double the water if you want to have it as a drink.
For babies, this is ALL you want to use.  No salt, sugar, milk, or nuts.  Eaten fresh and warm, this is a satisfying porridge all by itself.

Why do we not add anything else?  
Here are some reasons for avoiding the following common ingredients, when preparing food for babies and young children.
Milk – Babies absorb iron from breastmilk very well, especially when no other sources of iron are in the stomach at the same time.  So don’t mix baby’s ragi with breastmilk – that will lower the absorption of iron.   Don’t mix it with cow’s milk either.  Ragi (especially sprouted ragi) is high in calcium and iron, and cow’s milk makes it more difficult to absorb iron from foods (See Iron Deficiency).  For human babies, (other) animal milk is nutritionally inferior to mother’s milk and also inferior to ragi.  Why fill baby’s stomach with an inferior food?
Nuts – In light of the rise of allergies particularly in Western countries and other parts of the world adopting Western lifestyles, a number of health specialists recommend delaying nuts till age 2, and in particular delaying peanuts till age 3.  One must be even more cautious if there is a family history of allergy.  Even nursing mothers are advised to avoid nuts until the child is old enough to have nuts.  If you aren’t living in a western lifestyle, and have no family history of allergies you may take this caution with a grain of salt, as it were.
Added salt – Give your baby a chance to taste food as it is, without added salt.  Salt has its place and there is nothing wrong with eating it but one should not depend on salt to make food tasty.  One should be able to enjoy the taste of plain vegetables or grains.  Delaying salt till at least 12 months allows the palate to grow accordingly.
Added sugar – same logic as above.  Let babies and children taste the flavours already there in foods, without depending on added sugar to render things sweet.   By delaying added sugar till age 4 or 5 years, one can get used to a variety of flavours, build healthy eating habits, and also diversify one’s repertoire for desserts and treats that use the sweetness already there in fruits and other whole foods.
Many babies eat plain ragi porridge quite happily.  Once your child is chewing you can try adding fresh or dry fruits if you think s/he would like that.  I usually saved the fruits to have as a snack at some other time of day.  After my daughter started having nuts, I would add raisins or dates and crushed almonds to the ragi porridge and she liked that too.   In fact she still does 🙂
Video: EZ Cooker is good for ragi too.  Of course even on the stove it cooks quickly, but you can shave a minute or two off the stovetop time by transferring to the EZ cooker once it starts to boil.  Once it is in the EZ cooker it cannot burn or boil over.  It will not thicken as much as it would on the stove but if you like a softer porridge this is just right.

Related Articles
Articles Cited:
D & K, “How to sprout raagi (finger millet)” in Chef in You
Duncan Graham-Rowe, “Lifestyle:  When allergies go west,” in Nature (479), 24 November 2011,  pp. S2-S4.   View on Nature site |download pdf

Gestational Diabetes – what to eat?

In What on 9 May 2012 at 3:52 am

Dear Amma:  My doctor has put me on medication for gestational diabetes.  I have tried to keep my glucose levels down but it is very difficult – the other day I ate just a couple of spoons of potato and the level shot way up.  I get hungry all the time and I am running out of ideas for things to eat that will keep me full.

 – Eating for 2

Dear Eating for 2,
You know the drill:  Eat a variety of foods that are high in fiber, have a low glycemic index and are nutritious.  National Institutes of Health offers these diet recommendations.

To start, consider that whole foods tend to have a lower glycemic index than their refined counterparts.  Or in the words of The World’s Healthiest Foods,  “Foods that are white tend to have a higher glycemic index.”  So make sure whatever you are already eating is whole.  Your rice is brown, your bread is whole-grain or sprouted grain, and your fruits and vegetables, mung dal, urad dal, etc are unpeeled.  Want even more fiber?  Stir some wheat bran or oat bran into the batter you use for dosa or pesarottu.

Next, try to diversify your grain basket, with barley, ragi and other varieties of millets, oats, and quinoa.  Kamut and amaranth (राजगिरा or चौलाई) are available puffed, for easy snacking.

Let’s not forget omega-3 fatty acids, found in a variety of vegetables and notably in flax seeds, walnuts and their oils.  Your entire family will benefit from these improvements, and baby will be used to a healthy, diverse, whole foods diet from the start!  Note that flax seeds are so small that you have to take care to chew them. If you don’t they may pass through undigested.  If you grind your flax seed, you should eat it the same day – or within a few days if you refrigerate it.  Ground flax seed makes a decent dip for idli, dosa, etc.

Though I did not have GD, I too remember hungering for new and different foods in the third trimester.  After eating one dosa I would still be ravenous, but not want another dosa.  Repeat with one hummous sandwich, one plate of vegetables, and so on.

One trick that helped me stay full longer was adding wheat germ to whatever I was eating.  I would add a spoon or two to my rice and sambar, or sprinkle it on bread along with a spread.  Stir some into a bowl of oatmeal or upma.  A tablespoon of wheatgerm contains 2 grams of protein, so a little goes a long way.

Are your idli and dosa whole grain?   You can increase their protein content by using 1 cup dal per 1 cup rice.  A treasure trove of recipes using several varieties of millets includes simple preparations like కొర్ర పెసరోట్టు – see korra pesarottu on the site of Earth360.

Looking for ways to eat oats?  Try Oatmeal Sabzi or steel-cut oats.  How about quinoa?  Here is a simple recipe for delicious quinoa upma.

Millet Rotis?

In Yes / No on 26 September 2011 at 8:32 am

About using millets as first foods at 6 months: Should I just use the powders and cook them like porridge? We generally have them in roti form – can we just grind the rotis with milk and give?
– mother of a 6 month old

Don’t mix ragi with milk, esp for infants. The iron in each food is better absorbed if they are digested separately. Simply make the ragi porridge with plain water and add nothing else – no salt, no sugar. In a few months when your baby is able to chew he can enjoy the ragi rotis just like you.

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