Porridge

 As London grinds to a halt under the effects of a major 10cm snowfall,  thoughts turn to the fact that corn flakes are not quite what is required for breakfast. I should add that I appreciate that other parts of the UK may have had considerably more snow than we have had in London, but what you don’t appreciate is the fact that if it hasn’t happened in London then it hasn’t really happened.

This is the season for porridge for breakfast. Besides all the well touted benefits of eating porridge for breakfast  there is something satisfying about making and eating a bowl of porridge for breakfast. It does take slightly longer that pouring out a bowl of Rice Krispies, but believe me you will be a better person, or at least feel like one, for making the effort.

The first piece of advice I will give you is do not make your porridge in the microwave.

Shortly after I was diagnosed as  diabetic I had a session with a dietician, during the discussion about what were good food choices from the point of blood glucose control, she mentioned that porridge was probably one of the best things I could eat for breakfast. She also mentioned that it could be made in the microwave, but forgot to tell me the most important thing about making porridge in a microwave. My immediate thought was ‘that will save a bit of washing up’. The next morning I proceeded to make my porridge in the microwave.

I measured out my usual recipe,

For 1

  • ½ a cup of rolled oats
  • 1¾ cups of water
  • a generous pinch of salt

put it all into my porridge bowl, stuck it into the microwave, pushed start and went back to drinking my coffee and reading the newspaper. About five minutes later the microwave went ping and I wandered across the kitchen to retrieve my no effort, no washing up porridge, to discover that the bowl was empty and the microwave was generously coated with porridge. I also discovered that it is much harder to remove porridge from the walls of a microwave than it is to remove it from a pan.

What my dietician forgot to mention is that porridge made in a microwave foams up and boils over. So unless you use a bowl that is at least five times the volume of the liquid to allow for this fact, do not make your porridge in the microwave.

I now always make mine in a saucepan. It is just as quick and I think tastes better. So using the recipe above put all the ingredients into a pan bring to the boil, then turn it down to a low heat and allow it to ‘plop’ away happily for about five minutes. Give it a stir now and then. Traditionally you should use a tapered stick, usually with a thistle as a handle, because that is the way we made them in woodwork class when I was at school, called a spurtle and stir it clockwise. I find that stirring it with a wooden spoon anti-clockwise also works. I tend to put the salt in at the start, but some people like to cook the porridge the add salt to taste, all I will say is do not neglect the salt, it doesn’t need much but porridge does need some salt.

For Saturday mornings, or if you are a traditionalist, porridge made with oatmeal  does have a certain quality that porridge made with rolled oats does not quite possess.

The recipe is fairly similar but here are a couple of variations.

For 2

  • 600ml/1 pint of water
  • 100g/4 oz medium oatmeal
  • salt

Bring the water to the boil, add the oatmeal slowly, stirring all the time. Reduce the heat and allow to cook slowly, just giving the occasional ‘plop’, for up to 30 minutes, depending on how solid you like you porridge. Give it a stir every now and again, add salt to taste and serve.

Again traditionally, you should eat your porridge by dipping a spoon of hot porridge into a bowl of cold milk. This is to keep your porridge hot, as adding cold milk to the bowl of porridge will cool it down. Nice though that is I think there are more interesting things to add to porridge.

Here are some of my favourites.

  • Honey
  • Thick natural plain yoghurt
  • Fruit compote
  • A tot of whisky and honey
  • Cinnamon and chopped and toasted nuts
  • Cream

Or of course any combination of them.

Should you make too much porridge, let it go cold and set solid. It is absolutely delicious sliced, fried in a little butter and served with runny honey.

As for washing up the pan, don’t, fill it with cold water and let it soak for a few hours. The porridge sticking to the pan will have come off as a sort of skin which can be scooped up and discarded, leaving a clean and shiny pan behind.

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