If you search the Internet for “food chart for babies”, you will notice that most food charts list fruits as the ideal first-solid-food choice. Rice cereal is listed as the next solid food for babies. You can make this cereal at home instead of buying readymade product. In fact rice kanji, or “bhata chi pej” as we Maharshtrians call it, is nothing but homemade rice cereal. It is a very popular baby food choice amongst us Indians and rightly so. Rice is easy for digestion. Also it is recommended that you feed babies single ingredient food initially to check if their digestive systems accept it. Rice kanji is not just good for babies but also for older kids and adults when they are sick and need to be fed less spicy but nutritious food.
When I make rice kanji, I add hing (asafoetida) and jeera (cumin seeds) powder to it. They not only add flavor to this otherwise bland dish but also provide several health benefits. Both aid digestion. In fact, in Ayurveda hing is used to treat numerous health issues—digestive problems and various respiratory disorders such as bronchitis and asthma to name a few. Cumin seeds are good for building immunity and are also used to treat respiratory disorders. However, if your baby’s just started eating solids and you think that the texture of jeera powder may irritate his/her palate, you can choose to not add it in rice kanji initially.
You can prepare rice kanji in different ways—you can cook it in a pressure cooker, you can boil the rice in a vessel, or you can add water to cooked rice and then boil it. In the recipe given below I’ve used the last method. However, if you are preparing rice kanji for a baby who has just started eating solids, then it is best to grind the rice coarsely before cooking it.
- 1 cup cooked rice (cook the rice with more water than usual to make it fluffy)
- 2 cups water
- 1/5th tsp hing (asafoetida)
- 1/5th tsp jeera powder (powdered cumin seeds)
- Salt to taste
- Take the rice in a pan, add a little water and mash the rice a bit. (As I've mentioned above, if you are cooking for a baby who has just started eating solids, you should ideally grind the rice before cooking it.)
- Add remaining water and keep the pan on the burner for heating.
- Add hing, salt, and jeera powder. (If your baby has just started eating solids, you can choose to not add jeera powder initially.) (Note: It is recommended to avoid adding salt in babies' food till they turn one. However, in my case I found that Devansh just wouldn't eat his food without salt. Hence, I started adding little bit of salt in his food. You can decide whether you want to add salt or not after talking to your child's pediatrician.)
- Stir every couple of minutes.
- When the mixture thickens to a soup-like consistency turn off heat.
- Serve this kanji while it's warm. (Please check the temperature to ensure that it is not too hot for your baby.)