TIPS & TRICKS: HOW TO COOK THE PERFECT PORRIDGE
WHY & WHEN IT GOES WRONG & WAYS TO RECTIFY IT: Here are some of the problems I have encountered and the ways I have solved them through personal experience. Lets hope I have encountered all the mistakes so that you do not have to! Hope you find the tips useful.
1) FLOUR USED: There are many varieties and brands of flour that can be used to make porridge. Try and use the best flour and up to date so that the flavors of stale flours do are not reflected onto the porridge. The type of flour used will also affect the taste and end result.
2) MIXING THE PASTE: Before the addition of the flour into the water, it should be thoroughly mixed in water and made into a thin porridge consistency then added to the water for cooking process. The thin paste should be smooth and lump free otherwise the lumps left will carry through to the end or become very hard to break when cooked through.
3) WHEN THE PASTE IS ADDED: For most flours, other than CORN flour, the paste is added into the water when the water is hot enough but not boiling (boiling will make the paste go lumpy hence require more stirring and hand muscle to break them up). However, for corm meal flour, make sure the water is boiling (then brought to a gentle simmer) before adding the paste otherwise the porridge will have a uncooked flavour/texture.
4) COOKING TIME: The flavor and texture of the porridge will be affected by the cooking times. Leave the porridge to cook long enough which will affect its flavor and texture. The longer the cooking time the better the porridge will taste.
5) AMOUNT OF LIQUID USED: The amount of liquid used to porridge will affect its consistency (how thick or thin the porridge will be) The more the liquid used and the longer the cooking time, the thinner/lighter the porridge will be. Too much liquid will end up with a thinner consistency but too little will result in uncooked or very thick porridge or even Ugali! The ratio of flour to liquid in cups is (in my opinion) usually ½ :10, however this will depend on the TYPE OF FLOUR used an personal preference of how thick/thin you would like the porridge to be.
TIP: If you do not have a measuring cup, Use the same container for measuring the flour and water.
6)ADDITION OF LIQUID WHILE THE PORRIDGE IS COOKING: While simmering, it might be necessary to add more liquid to the porridge to stop it becoming too thick. If adding any type of liquid, make sure the liquid is hot. Do not add cold liquid as this lowers the porridge temperature and will impact on the texture and flavour. If the porridge is too thick, add HOT water or milk or whatever liquid you might be using for the base. and if it is too thin, let is simmer some more but do not add extra flour paste to thicken it.
7)COOKING TIMES: Most porridge usually take a minimum of at least 15 minutes cooking time. from addition of flour paste to it loosing its rawness. However addition of other ingredients might require it to simmer some more (e.g addition of coconut of lentils/grains) etc. However, the basic message is do not rush your porridge, Let it gently simmer so that the flavours develop & combine and the flour base is fully cooked and does not remain raw.
8) TECHNIQUE USED: Different recipes will call for different techniques which will affect the end result. however, constant stirring while the porridge is cooking results in a in a stickier and creamier porridge. Constant stirring at the beginning of the cooking time is essential as this stops the flour in the flour paste settling down in the cooking water or creation of lumps while mixing. So for a smooth porridge, Stirring is essential at the start of the cooking process. Stirring can stop when the flour has pulled together and the porridge is holding up.
9) POST- COOKING RESTING PERIOD- Remember, the porridge will continue cooking from the latent heat stored in the porridge long after its been removed from the heat source. Hence remove the porridge slightly thinner than what you would like the consistency to be for serving it will definitely become thicker while resting before serving. (When to remove the porridge this will come with practice). Before serving, mix together to re-distribute ingredients in the base.
10)STORAGE; All porridge can be stored hot but not longer than 12 hours otherwise you will end up with a thick lump like mealie/ugali/fufu which will need addition of water and cooking again. For porridge where coconut milk has been used, do not store in a thermos for more than 12 hours because the coconut milk goes rancid. It can be store after completely cooled down. Just heat up again before serving if required hot.