I’m a big fan of porridge, for a number of reasons. It’s a hearty and filling breakfast, and my staple post-run meal; it keeps me full for a long time; it’s traditional and comforting; and it can be made to taste divine.
A lot of people complain that porridge is boring – well, yes, I suppose that in essence it is boring, but it’s this simplicity that I love. The fact that such a basic foodstuff can be adapted to so many tastes, and is in no way bad for you, is deeply satisfying to me. Porridge is so simple and easy, but I’m not talking about a sachet of microwaveable oats with artificial flavours. If that’s anybody’s idea of porridge, then no wonder they don’t understand what they’re missing.
I love the versatility of porridge – that I can add whatever I want, depending on what I fancy, or what’s on hand. Personally, my preference is to load it up with two different fruits, packing it with flavour; I have quite a sweet tooth! Although you can keep it simple with a spoonful of sugar, honey, or jam, I find that the natural sugars in the fruit give the oats all the sweetness they need. I also like to add a handful of almonds or walnut halves for a bit of crunch, and perhaps a sprinkling of sunflower seeds.
Having chopped and changed my method of cooking it many a time, I’ve come to realise that making porridge is quite the art. By altering the proportions of oat, milk, and water, you can change the taste completely. The traditional Scottish method of cooking it is with water only, and a pinch of salt (they also apparently stir in one specific direction, with the back of a wooden spoon, to achieve the perfect consistency): but from this I only managed a thin soupy gruel, and went away feeling very disappointed.
I use rolled oats at home, which I find give a much creamier texture, although regular bargain-price oats do the job whilst I’m at university. I’m not keen on jumbo oats – they weigh more, meaning you get less in your bowl.
There’s also the debate as to whether there is benefit to be gained from soaking your oats. I tend to do so, because they cook more quickly; and as I like my porridge thicker, the pre-soaking ensures that the oats aren’t liquidy. I also think the taste is creamier. That being said, though, not soaking your oats can produce a perfectly good bowl of porridge!
Here’s my guide to making my perfect porridge.
- Weigh out your oats in a small saucepan. I always go for 35g – any more and I’m very full!
- If you’re going to soak the oats, pour in about 100ml of milk (semi-skimmed is my preference, although whole milk would undeniably give a much richer taste.) Leave overnight, or at least for a couple of hours.
- Add a few splashes of water (or milk) depending on the consistency you want, and cook the oats slowly over a low flame for about ten minutes, stirring regularly (I use a wooden spoon, which is good for scraping the pan out with afterwards). Keep you eye on it – scalded milk is hard to scrub off.
- At this point, I slice a banana into the porridge, and add a splash of milk, if it’s looking too thick. I love cooking the banana in the pan, as it releases its sugars and tastes so much sweeter. Just don’t cook it to the point where it completely loses its shape, as you don’t want a sloppy mess.
- If you want, you can add dried fruit, berries and / or nuts now and stir, to make sure it’s all well-incorporated into the porridge.
- Dish it up into a bowl!
- Add any other toppings you like – I put on a handful more dried fruit, and some seeds or oatbran (good for your heart).
- Because I like my porridge steaming hot, I pop the bowl in the microwave for a minute. This isn’t necessary, but it also really helps to thicken it up, and I love seeing the berries releasing their juices.
I almost always put a banana in my porridge – the riper it is, the better. I’ll also add either dried dates, apricots, sultanas, or fresh / frozen strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries, depending on what I’ve got in. I like to buy bags of ready-chopped dates and apricots, to save the process of pitting them. My absolute favourite combination is banana and strawberry; I won’t microwave the strawberries for too long, or they go soggy and sad. Raspberries can be a bit hit-and-miss, if they’re not sweet enough.
I’ve also tried making porridge with almond milk, which was delicious, although definitely sweeter. I imagine hazelnut milk would also taste good.
My fellow porridge-lovers all have very specific ways of eating theirs – a friend of mine loves mashing berries into it so that it resembles brightly-coloured babyfood; she also loves adding a tablespoon of cocoa powder, swearing by the cake-like texture it creates. That’s another characteristic which makes porridge so unique – how you make it can be quite a personal thing, and perhaps quite expressive of your particular tastes!
So have fun experimenting, and let me know if there any particular toppings or ways of making porridge that you’d reccommend!
(Here is also a link to The Golden Spurtle Porridge Making Championships – for hardcore porridge fanatics. The recipes on the website look incredible!)
More of my bowls…