Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Porridge: Like a Snuggie, but for your insides.

It is getting colder, wetter and all the hard hours of study are making you sookier. What you really need is a bowl of hot steaming comfort. You need to whip up some porridge. 

Porridge in its naked form is just oats and water which sounds a bit blegh but, when made correctly, is actually really good. And obviously oats, like any whole grain, are basically human rocket fuel. They are packed with all kinds of friendly things to keep you healthy, strong and make you feel less bad about the rest of the rubbish you tend to eat throughout the week.

The type of porridge most of us think of is the rubbery, dry and zero fun variety from childhood breakfasts. It doesn't have to bee this way. Porridge is really great and when made properly is velvety, rich and far superior to anything that comes in packet form. But, people frequently manage to ruin porridge in two ways: 
- One, microwaving it. Don’t do it! Your microwave is a texture killer and will reduce your warm bowl of fun into a little oaty turd cake, and no one wants to eat that. 
- Two, by using "quick oats" which really aren't as quick as you think nor are as tasty as the smiling bears on the box would have you believe. These bears are liars. Packet oats are also frequently stale, sugary and confined to uninspired flavors like honey or banana. Your day is not boring so your breakfast shouldn't be either. 

So here is how to make porridge the right way

1. Rolled oats, straight up.   
           Porridge is made of oats, always has, always will be. Rolled oats are also great as they are really cheap and are much more readily available than its steel cut or crushed brothers and sisters. Bulk 1kg packs of rolled oats are available, if you are ready to commit to serious porridge eating, and work out to be about 20cents bowls for a 50g serve.

2. Soak your oats. 
            Right, so you have gone out and got some rolled oat. Right now they will not look all that inspiring, but I promise they get better. What you now need to do is soak them over night or at least for a few hours. This will help to break down some of the glutens (making them more digestible), help them cook faster (faster than quick oats) and give you a smoother creamier consistency.

 3. Cook, excess water dissipate, handle. 
            When you are ready to cook tip out your pre-soaked oats into a saucepan. If it all looks too thick add a little cold water. Don’t fret if it looks too wet, the water will evaporate. Put the pan on a medium heat and start stirring. Porridge traditionalists, yes they do exist (mostly in Scotland) insist that you need a spurtle to stir them correctly. A spurtle is a round wooden stick, I have been using the handle of a wooden spoon, which avoids crushing the oats too much and allows you to scrape the bottom of the pan. But really who cares, it is not like you are making a soufflĂ© oats and water are pretty hard to mess up unless you burn them. When all the moisture has evaporated and you porridge nicely coats your spoon/spurtle take it off the heat and start topping.

4. Dress up your oats
Fat and salt go along way when it comes to making something bland taste great. Also remember your oats don’t have to be sweet nor should they be restricted to breakfast time. Savory porridge might just rock your world. Here are some oaty combinations I am loving.

- Greek Yoghurt, Honey, Flaked Almonds
            Cold and slightly tangy greek yoghurt goes really well with the warm oats and the honey and almonds help to give it a little sweet kick.

- Banana, Dark Chocolate, Coconut milk
            Most people put milk on their porridge so why should coconut milk be any different? The dark chocolate and banana make it indulgent, especially when you cook the banana into the oats and let the chocolate melt through.

- Chorizo, Parmesan, Egg
            This is one for the adventurous. Think southern style grits and it makes more sense. With plenty of spicy chorizo and runny yolk mixed in it is perfect for a lazy dinner.

- Tahini, Miso, Honey
            This combination became wildly popular in London restaurants last year. It sounds weird but is surprisingly delicious. A great salty nutty sweet mouthful- the holy trinity of porridge.

So, grab some oats and give porridge another shot.  

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