What Baby Ate: Upma (Savoury South Indian Porridge)

Little Pip is 8.5 months and has become a little beaver! In addition to chewing her crib to nothing, she uses her two bottom teeth to attack pacifiers, toys, and of course, her food.

She was never really into the idea of eating “baby food.” With Little Bear, I revelled in the chance to make him all sorts of combinations of pureed baby food. I played with flavour profiles and used my Baby Bullet all the time.  My freezer looked like something out of Pinterest. But Little Pip would much rather grab something we’re eating and gnaw away at it!

Recently I started getting lots of questions about what I’ve been feeding her. Usually the conversation starts up when people notice she’s definitely not eating baby food. And the truth is, her food isn’t baby food – it’s just food. After she seemed disinterested in being spoonfed, I started reading more about Baby Led Weaning. If you’re not sure what that is, it’s the idea that babies can eat quite a lot if we give them the opportunity. So instead of mashed bananas, Baby Led Weaning would have you give the baby an unmashed whole (or cut up) banana to gum away at.

We decided that we would offer Little Pip lots of whole food choices, like in Baby Led Weaning, but ultimately didn’t feel comfortable offering her everything in this way. What this has meant is that meal time is actually very easy. Usually I just take what we’re eating, add the herbs and spices as usual but omit the salt, and reserve a portion of that for Little Pip. For us I add in the salt and further spices if need be. What I’ve discovered is that Little Pip loves flavour, loves Indian food, and enjoys eating with company!

upma

What follows is a recipe for a savoury South Indian/Sri Lankan porridge. It was introduced to me by my mother-in-law and is quick and easy to prepare. Upma is traditionally eaten at breakfast, but can be eaten any time of day. Unlike the idea of porridge we think of in North America, this meal, like many breakfast options in India, is not sweet but savoury and even a bit spicy. For Little Pip, I omitted the salt and chilli peppers that would usually be included in the dish and served it alongside some yogurt. Since it is best to add the salt in the beginning stages of cooking (so that it is incorporated properly), I ate my serving of upma with a healthy dollop of my mom’s amazing tomato chutney and a side of yogurt.

Baby-friendly Upma

Ingredients:

1 cup semolina/cream of wheat

1 tbsp avocado oil

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 small onion, finely chopped

pinch of asafoetida (hing)*

pinch of black pepper

6-7 dried curry leaves, crushed

1 cup frozen (or fresh) mixed vegetables (sub 1/2 cup grated vegetables if your child has a tough time with the size of the frozen mixed vegetables)

2 cups water

*Asafoetida, although common in Indian food, is rarely used in other cuisines. Said to be good for digestion and great for your body, this spice has a strong taste, so a little goes a long way. It can be found at virtually every Indian market.

Method:

  1. Add semolina to a medium pan and dry roast over medium-high heat for at least 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set pan back on stove.
  2. Heat oil and mustard seeds in the pan over medium-high heat. Cook until seeds begin to pop (it’s a good idea to have a lid nearby for this step!).
  3. As soon as seeds begin to pop, add onions and saute until onions are golden brown.
  4. Add semolina, asafoetida, black pepper, crushed curry leaves, and vegetables to the pan. Stir well to incorporate.
  5. Add water, stirring quickly to ensure the upma is well combined.
  6. Let sit for 5-10 minutes and serve alongside yogurt.

Leftovers should be promptly packed and kept in the refrigerator.
Note: Since this recipe is for babies, I haven’t added any salt, however if you wish to make this for yourself, feel free to add salt, chili peppers, and chopped cashews in step #4.

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