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How to sex up your porridge

publication date: Oct 10, 2011
author/source: Elly McCausland
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Believe it or not it's World Porridge Day! If you're not already a fan, Elly McCausland is out to convert you with her amazing ideas for delicious toppings

Porridge? The word hardly exudes glamour. As far as breakfasts go, it’s not exactly Eggs Benedict. I know that when many people hear ‘porridge’, they mentally conjure up a bowl of watery, pallid, sludgy, steaming gruel. Something that belongs in Oliver Twist rather than on the breakfast table.

This is a shame, because porridge might just be the world’s cheapest superfood. Oats are packed with B vitamins and minerals, and are a good source of soluble fibre, which has been proven to reduce high cholesterol levels. Oats also have a low glycaemic Index, meaning they are slowly absorbed into the bloodstream and keep blood sugar levels stable – in other words, you won’t need to reach for a biscuit or croissant halfway between breakfast and lunch. Make your porridge with milk, and you’re also getting bone-boosting calcium.

Still not convinced? I agree that a bowl of steaming oats, water and milk may not have the same breakfast appeal as a packet of Frosties or a fry-up.  However, once you start getting creative with your porridge toppings, you might just find yourself hooked. It’s a great winter warmer on frosty mornings, but ardent fans (including myself) eat porridge all year round – there’s nothing quite like it to set you up for the day.

By adding a fruity topping to your porridge, you’re getting all the health benefits of oats and managing to squeeze in one or two of that much-lauded five a day. Add a few nuts and you’re getting even more essential nutrients, as well as protein to help you feel fuller for longer. The result can taste so delicious, it almost seems wrong to be eating it for breakfast.

A great advantage of eating porridge every morning, beside the nutritional benefits, is that it’s cheap. You can get a kilo of oats for under a pound at most supermarkets, which will last you weeks. Oats are just as nutritious as muesli, which can often be eye-poppingly expensive – by swapping your Dorset Cereals fix for porridge, you could save a substantial amount of money. Even if using fresh fruit to top your morning bowlful, there’s no need to break the bank – cheap fruits like apples, pears and bananas are just as delicious as fancy imported blueberries.

Another myth is that making porridge is time-consuming. Not so. It takes five minutes to put some porridge oats in a pan, add some water and/or milk, bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes until it’s the desired consistency. If using fresh fruit, simply chop it up while you’re waiting for the porridge to cook. If using cooked fruit, cook a big batch of it at the beginning of the week then keep in the fridge, taking a little out every morning (and microwaving it if you like) to spoon onto your breakfast.

Here are some ideas for porridge that’s worth waking up for:

* Mix a handful of raisins or sultanas into the porridge as it cooks. When ready, stir in a chopped pear and a little grated nutmeg or ground cinnamon. Finish with a drizzle of honey or maple syrup, and some toasted flaked almonds.

* Slice a banana (the riper the better) and stir into hot porridge along with a few handfuls of blueberries. If you like you can heat the berries in a pan first so they burst and release their delicious purple juice – wonderful drizzled over the porridge.

* Plums are available all year round, but can be a bit bland out of season. The solution? Halve them, place in a baking dish, add a big glug of orange juice, a drizzle of honey and a little ground ginger (or chopped stem ginger in syrup), and bake for about half an hour until soft and juicy. Spoon over hot porridge into which you’ve stirred raisins and cinnamon (above).

* When apricots are in season, halve and simmer them in orange juice with a cinnamon stick, a couple of cloves and a star anise until tender. Spoon onto porridge into which you’ve stirred sultanas and chopped dates.

* Sweet pink rhubarb makes a delicious compote for porridge. Simply poach slices of it in a little water or orange juice with some caster sugar to taste, until tender. Spoon over hot porridge. Add a segmented orange if you like.

* Stir a grated apple into porridge along with cinnamon, honey, sultanas, toasted hazelnuts and perhaps a few blueberries.

* Summer berries, when in season, can’t be beaten for breakfast. Simply scatter over your bowl of porridge. Raspberries, blueberries and blackcurrants work particularly well. Chopped peach makes a delicious accompaniment.

* When fresh fruit is scarce, you can make a delicious dried fruit compote (right). Place dried prunes, figs, raisins and apricots in a pan with a little water or orange juice, a sprinkling of cinnamon and a dash of honey, and simmer gently until the fruit has softened and the liquid has turned syrupy. Spoon over porridge, perhaps adding a segmented orange – the two flavours work very well together.

* Chopped fresh mango is delicious stirred into porridge along with cinnamon and a generous amount of desiccated coconut.

Elly has her own food blog Nutmegs, Seven


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