NEW YORK, NY - Porridge is a specialty in the Caribbean. It is a dish made by boiling ground, crushed, or chopped starchy plants or grains in water and/or milk, with various flavorings plus sugar, honey or sweet condensed milk. It is usually served hot in a bowl.
Some of the grains used for porridge include semolina, oat, rice, wheat, barley, corn and buckwheat. Many types of porridge have their own names, e.g. Cornmeal/polenta, grits and kasha.
While porridge is served all over the world, in Northern Europe, Russia and Africa, porridge was historically a staple food.
In Europe, it is often made from barley and other grains including yellow peas. When porridge is served in Europe, it is primarily a savory dish, with meats, root crops, vegetables and herbs added for flavor.
In the Caribbean, however, porridge is prepared from a variety of starches and grains including hominy corn and grounded corn.
For example, in the Caribbean, porridge is made from grated green bananas, grated breadfruit, arrowroot, bulgar, hominy corn, cornmeal, oat, rice and plantains.
It is served mostly as a breakfast food but sometimes served as lunch. Some of the flavorings used are nutmeg, cinnamon, bay leaf, vanilla, coconut milk and orange rind.
Because porridge is easy to digest and is very nutritious , it is one of the first foods given to young babies. It is also prepared and given to people who are convalescing.
One of my favorite porridge is Green Banana Porridge with coconut milk. The recipe is as follows:
5 to 6 large Green Bananas
2 cups Coconut Milk
2 cups Water
2 large Cinnamon Stick
1 tsp Nutmeg
2 tsp Salt or to taste
3 tsp Vanilla flavoring
1 cup Sweetened Condensed Milk or to taste
1. Peel green bananas and grate. Put grated banana in a bowl
2. Combine coconut milk and water.
3. Add grated bananas to the milk/water liquid.
4. Pour the banana mixture into a pot.
5. Stir in cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and continue stirring until blended.
6. Cook mixture on low heat until the porridge thickens, about 15 -20 minutes. Stir occasionally until fully cooked and thick.
7. Add vanilla and sweeten with brown sugar and sweetened condensed milk to taste.
*Minna LaFortune is a trained Caribbean caterer and also president, Society for the Advancement of the Caribbean Diaspora (SACD).