I have discovered my perfect bowl of porridge. I wasn’t even on a mission, it just came to me, after not a lot of fuss at all. I love meals like that, ones that surprise you with their brilliance.
I have previously mentioned my love of oats, many times. But recently I have found myself making perfect bowl after perfect bowl - just in time for summer…?? Peculiar timing it may be, nevertheless I have wholeheartedly embraced this blessing and have unabashedly made perfect porridge for breakfast four times in the past week.
Ordinarily, two or three times a week, first thing in the morning (although I don’t restrict my porridge eating to breakfast only) I will get an urge for a warming bowl of porridge. I have my go-to ingredients, which are rolled oats and chia seeds. Rolled oats because I like a thicker oat (plus, rolled oats have a lower GI than quick oats), and chia seeds as they are an easy, quick way to get a dose of protein and omega-3’s. Another reason why chia seeds have cemented their place as a founding member in my porridge, is that they swell when in contact with water. Here is a little chia tip for you: a little water with chia seeds, left to sit for a while, makes an excellent egg replacer when getting your vegan-bake on. This fabulous feature makes the porridge thicker and kind of pudding-like, which I enjoy.
So, I have my oats and my chia seeds, they are always present. But the other ingredients? That completely depends on my mood…
I usual stick with skinny milk (update: my views have changed, see here), although I do occasionally feel like the nutty flavour of soymilk. One of my favourite additions is banana. I take a fairly ripe banana (under-ripe ones simply don’t work) and slice it into what I can only describe as dainty chunks – not large pieces, and not uniform thin slices - somewhere in between. I add this along with the oats, chia seeds and milk at the very beginning. Cooking the banana as you diligently, and occasionally vigorously, stir the contents of the pot makes the oats thicker again, and imparts a lovely sweet flavour that blends entirely throughout the oats, binding everything together. I can’t stress enough how much I adore my porridge with a banana base.
More often than not, I don’t add another sweetener, as the banana is sweet enough. However if the banana is not as ripe as I would like or the flavour is unremarkable, I may add an additional ingredient to make the dish sing. This is usually maple syrup.
For years I was a girl who had porridge the same way, every time. I would cook my oats with half water, half milk and top with honey, sliced banana and a sprinkle of cinnamon. And I was happy. But things changed - I grew up, I travelled the world and developed new tastes. I am now more adventurous, hungry and excited about my food and cooking. My kitchen shelves have been taken over by nut butters, coconut oil, orange blossom water, agave nectar, brown rice syrup – the list goes on. I still have a place for my vegemite, my honey – but they now stand more towards the back, and tend to only come when a nostalgic craving strikes.
The other day I tried my honey, banana, cinnamon combination again, and I must say, it no longer satisfies me as it used to. I am now officially a maple syrup convert, and a snobby one, at that – it must be pure maple syrup, not maple flavoured syrup. However I do occasionally mix things up in the sweetener department, I am known to be rather outrageous with my oats after all. So sometimes I will have a sprinkle of brown sugar on top of my porridge. I love the way the sugar pools on the hot oats, like fallen snowflakes scattered on the ground. Beautiful!
On the rare occasion, I may want some dried fruit. When I do, I add a dessert spoon of sultanas at the start of the cooking process. This way they go all juicy and turgid, and stupendously delicious, as they soak up the liquid. They turn from a frail, sarcopenic bite into a plump, jolly, bursting bubble. Despite the deliciousness that is the slightly stewed sultana, most of the time I am a fresh fruit girl.
I like to add the fruit once the porridge is cooked and served into bowls. My favourite toppings are fresh blueberries - so soft and plump, with a subtle sweetness. Other fresh fruit that works well are raspberries, strawberries, pears and bananas. Fresh apples are an option, but they’re even better stewed – so soft and tart. However I don’t always have stewed apples on hand, and rarely have time to prepare them in the morning – such a shame :) So more often than not, I don’t pair apples with porridge.
If I am sweetening my porridge with brown sugar, I would do it now, once served into bowls. You the sugar to melt, like dark, rich snowflakes. If I am using maple syrup, however, I tend to add a dash halfway through the cooking process.
My perfect bowl of porridge is nearly ready, all I need now is some crunch. What better way to add crunch than with nuts? Toasted nuts, of course - I am of the belief that toasting nuts always makes them better. I’ll use pecans if I desire a buttery flavour and almonds if I want something less rich. Although I’m very open to more nutty suggestions. Whilst certain of my love of toasting them, I do not profess to be a nut connoisseur.
And there it is…voila! Perfect Porridge. A nutritionally fabulous bowl of taste and textural delights. I ate this exact bowl, shown below, for 3 days last week. On the forth day I mixed it up with raspberries. Perfection.
I am aware that everyone has their own taste preference, so this is my perfect porridge. The way I like it - thick oats, plumped up with sweet banana and pimped-out with chia seeds (pimp my porridge?), with a refreshing burst of fruit and a welcome nutty crunch. I hope this post inspires you to add your personal favourite flavours and texture preferences, to find your perfect porridge. You might like a dash of vanilla extract with your porridge? Perhaps you prefer it without nuts? Or maybe for you it is all about fresh banana slices and grated nutmeg? In the words of Madonna, “Express Yourself”. Go ahead, pimp your porridge…do you think this has MTV potential?.
My Perfect Porridge (for one)
I am all too aware that, like my honey, banana and cinnamon combination, this bowl too may not stand the test of time. But for me, right now, even in this blistering heat, it is perfect…
40g Rolled Oats (1/3 cup I find is too little, and ½ cup is too much for me)
1 teaspoon Chia Seeds
A splash of Water
~3/4 cup Milk (I first add ½ cup then add more as required)
1 ripe Banana – cut into dainty chunks
A dash of Pure Maple Syrup
10g Slivered Almonds
A handful of Fresh Blueberries
1. Put the oats and chia seeds into a heavy-based saucepan. Add a splash of water and ½ cup milk, and turn the heat on to medium. Add the dainty banana chunks and allow the pot to heat, gently coming to a simmer. Once bubbling, turn the heat down a little. Stir the oats to incorporate the banana – the occasional vigorous stir is welcome. Cook for a couple of minutes. Add in the last ¼ cup of milk – add more milk or water if the oats are looking a little dry.
2. Heat a separate, heavy based saucepan on medium-low heat. Once hot, turn the heat down to low and add the almonds and allow to toast. Be sure to not let them burn – shake the pan frequently. Turn off the heat once lightly golden and fragrant.
3. Back to the porridge, add a dash of maple syrup and continue to stir. Stir until the oats and cooked and you have thick, pudding-like porridge (this usually takes ~5 minutes).
4. Once cooked, pour into your favourite porridge bowl - I alternate between two little bowls I brought back seven years ago from l'Isle sur la Sorgue in Provence, France. They’re just darling, one purple with white polka-dots, the other cream with blue polka-dots. They’re perfect for yoghurt, granola, ice-cream pudding and, of course, porridge!
5. Top the porridge bowl with the blueberries and toasted almonds. And there you have it. Perfect Porridge. Or I should say, my Perfect Porridge.