What do you mean porridge doesn’t count as brunch? Err, it so does!
Not your rushed workday porridge of course; that doesn’t count. Not a packet of instant oats tipped half arsedly into a bowl with milk and blasted in the microwave. And definitely not – oh God, the horror! – one of those Oats so Simple porridge pots, filled with water from the kettle to produce a gruel-like substance that would, quite reasonably, have Oliver Twist begging, “Please sir, don’t make me eat that sh*t!” I’m not sure that even counts as food…
No, I mean proper porridge: real oats and milk, stirred slowly and zen-like over the stove until they turn – almost magically – into oatmeal so unctuous it would make Goldilocks swoon; finished, of course, with a suitably decadent topping that could only be acceptable on a weekend. Food that actually doesn’t take much longer than five minutes to make, but which we somehow can’t justify troubling ourselves with during the frenetic working week. As far as I’m concerned, that is porridge totally deserving of the hallowed title ‘brunch’.
I think the simplest things done well are sometimes the most luxurious, and so it is with proper porridge. Porridge is what I want to eat when it’s cold, grey and wet outside, and since it’s been that way in Blighty for just about all of 2014 so far, I felt the ultimate comfort food deserved an early entry on this blog.
It’s not just its hearty, belly-warming creaminess that makes porridge so comforting; it’s the sense of nostalgia that it creates. A bowlful of porridge is like a literary time machine, transporting me to a wholesome 1950s childhood that only exists in my imagination and the books that I devoured so avidly during my real childhood of the 1980s. Just like Turkish delight and hot chocolate make me feel like I’m sitting by the fire in Mr Tumnus’s Narnian cottage (alright pedants, I know Mr Tumnus had nothing to do with Turkish delight, but it’s a much cheerier mental image than the White Witch’s sleigh), or a picnic lunch of sandwiches and lemonade recall Blyton-esque adventures with school chums during the summer holidays, so porridge opens up a door into a cosy realm, where the treadmill of work, commuting and endless chores feels like nothing more than a long-forgotten nightmare. And who doesn’t need to feel like that during the dark depths of January?
If the reference to salt in the ingredients list below makes you nervous, don’t be. I felt much the same until I gave it a whirl, and now I couldn’t eat porridge without it. Just like seasoning any other food, its purpose is not to make the porridge taste salty, but to bring out the oatiness of the oats. Try it – go on, go on, go on, go on…
Top your porridge with whatever you fancy. My all-time favourite topping is maple syrup and double cream but I thought a festive combo (yes, I’m still in denial that Christmas is over) of cinnamon, honey, dried cranberries and toasted flaked almonds would make a better visual for the photos. Here are a few other indulgent topping suggestions:
- The fruity one: blueberry compote and cream
- The Scottish one: mixed dried fruits poached in Drambuie, topped with toasted chopped walnuts and cream
- The marathon-runner’s one: sliced banana, honey and toasted chopped walnuts
- The autumnal one: apple and blackberry compote with chopped toasted hazelnuts
- The Yorkshire one: stewed rhubarb with a drizzle of ginger syrup (from a jar of stem ginger)
Still think porridge doesn’t count as brunch? Yup, thought not…
Serves 1 (a hug in a bowl for the person you love best – yes, you!)
50g porridge oats
Pinch of salt to taste
1 tsp soft light brown sugar
1. Put the oats and milk in a pan, and stir over a medium heat until the liquid begins to boil.
2. Simmer gently for around 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the oats are soft and the mixture has come together into a thick, creamy porridge (if the phrase “dropping consistency” means anything to you, this is what you’re aiming for). Try to resist the urge to over-stir the porridge – if the oats release too much starch, your porridge could turn gluey, which would be a tragedy.
3. Just before removing from the heat, add the brown sugar and season to taste with salt.
4. Serve with the topping of your choice, then enjoy your bowlful of pure, nostalgic bliss.
Brunch tip: Proper porridge can be yours on a week day too! Make it the night before then store it overnight in the fridge in a covered container. Reheat it the following day, adding some extra milk to bring it back to the right consistency. Just go easy on the cream, ok?