Porridge

I’m not sure why I’ve come so late to porridge, I may well have been put off it by a crazy friend who went to live in Scotland and was unkindly called ‘the porridge gobbler’ on his return because of the quantities he consumed every morning.

Now a Scottish icon, Porridge may ultimately derive from Porrum, the latin word for leek and could originally have been a vegetable preparation thickened with meal or grains.

History lesson over and regardless of origin it is a slow release energy food with a low GI and good for reducing cholesterol (apparently). Most importantly porridge is satisfying, delicious and flexible. It’s amicable to the addition of almost any flavour combination and soothing to mind and body.

I’ve eaten it almost every morning this year [probably 70 times] and as a result have substituted both breakfast toast and everything elevenses; pizza, pasta, meat, cheese, biscuits and all other stuff that floats across my desk on a normal day.

I thought I might be bored by now and yet I prepare it quite happily in the morning and share a big bowl with little miss, 1 year old and she hunts me down like a shark when I come upstairs with it. Lately she wants her own spoon and 1 year old attention span means it ends up on the bed and the carpet and the walls.

I started with just porridge oats and blue milk, then switched to green milk. After a week I made a 50:50 mix of porridge oats and jumbo oats for coarser eating. Since then I’ve tried mixing it up with quinoa flakes (not recommended) and barley flakes. I googled relative nutritional values, read half the article and realised I was on a horse fattening website. I also varied the milk according to what was in the fridge, finally settling 50:50 green milk and boiling water [which speeds up cooking].
I tried just boiling water and lovely wife pointed out I was eating gruel.

The greatest enjoyment to be had from Porridge comes from the myriad garnishes which I’ve employed to keep the taste fresh and new.

January’s theme was sweetness; bananas [dried or fresh] and raisins (a number of varieties until I settled on jumbo flame) enlivened with maple syrup (de rigeur), jam (various but strawberry preferred) or honey (oddly unsuccessful and claggy tasting).

Other fresh fruit has been rotated in (and out) according to season, starting with fresh pomegranate (I’m always hitting my hand with the wooden spoon through bleary eyes as I try to get the ‘jewels’ out) moving through citrus flesh AND zest (orange, mandarin, clementine) and even as far as kiwi (not nice) punctuated with grated apple (with cinnamon) and pear slices (with chocolate, again a bit claggy).

February saw the introduction of seeds as I had a shelf full leftover from my energy bar fad ; sesame (not so good), sunflower (excellent), pine nuts (moreish, especially toasted).

Unsuccessful additions, as always, punctuated the story including a particularly unpleasant morning of sickly rosewater. Apart from mental lamb dishes such as Bazmaward. I cannot find a use for rosewater. Pomegranate molasses was mouth puckering and did the porridge no favours, but works really well with lamb.

Peanut butter and Jam was a mid-February revelation, a brilliant balance of sweet-salty fattiness. One morning I pushed the boat out with roasted dessicated coconut, coconut milk and palm sugar creating a porridge almost as rich as that with mascarpone, fruit and grated chocolate. This was too much and also just right in a William Blake way; “the road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom...for we never know what is enough until we know what is more than enough”.

March has seen the emergence of dried fruit; chopped dates make everything taste better (especially tagines, quinoa and couscous), prunes (delicious and really weird soaked in tea) and cherries. The local organic grocer has started stocking the romantically named Pearls of Samarkand; Uzbekistani organic cherries. As luck would have it Samarkand was also an answer on “Universally Challenged” (5 points to me) which we watch, bathed in the quite shame of our ignorance, with my mother-in-law. All the dried fruits are lifted by blood orange zest which will soon disappear for another year unless I get round to drying or freezing or otherwise preserving.
I like to idea of candying thought not the amount of work involved. Maybe next year I can somehow persuade Number 1 son to candy on my behalf.

Now my thoughts are turning to savoury porridge, expanding usage from a.m. to p.m. and treating it like polenta; tomato sauce and cheese & butter both work well. I’ve tried adding tapenade (wasn’t good for breakfast) which was OK with griddled mackerel and I’m moving further east into Za’atar porridge with grilled chicken and ras el-hanout porridge with lamb stew.

The logical progression is India, following recipes for dal, dahl, daal substituting oats for lentils and then the far east opens up with congee style porridge pork . This lot should keep me busy for months.

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Recipes, Lifestyle