Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Porridge, glorious porridge!

I can hardly believe that I am about to write an ode to porridge (oatmeal, for the Americans out there). As a child I hated the stuff. My whole family used to eat it and seemed genuinely to enjoy it. I could never understand it. Its appearance was not that distinct from that of a jelly fish melting on the beach... a sort of grey, lumpy gloop. To taste it made one really empathise with Oliver Twist – he actually asked for more? It was runny, yet each swollen boiled oat flake seemed to need chewing. No wonder my sisters used to dowse it with Golden Syrup. I’ve never liked that either. I was the child that ate everything, but to my mind, and my taste buds, porridge had absolutely nothing to recommend itself. I used to eat the oats raw, with milk and brown sugar. That’s yummy. I still do that. But porridge? No thank you. Porridge was definitely something I never intended to have to deal with again, once I had left home.

I put it out of my mind for many years quite successfully. And then I met, fell in love with and got married to James. He made porridge for breakfast, which I politely declined, and took me to Scotland – the land of the stuff. It was a freezing December holiday, Jemima, unbeknown to me, was just a tiny cell settling into her new home, and I admit that ‘a bowl of hot, creamy porridge with fruit compote, or local honey’ did begin to sound lovely when written on the fireside breakfast menus of old country house B&Bs (especially when the alternative was haggis). I tried again but it was no good. It never was creamy and it still brought back childhood nightmares.

And then one day I saw the light. It is James who I have to thank. I can’t remember when or where but at some point in our lives together he managed to persuade me to try his porridge. He pointed out that while our parents, and the Scots, may think they are the masters of porridge-making, swearing by water, soaking the oats over night and a touch of salt etc, they are all woefully misguided. I hate to be disloyal to my beloved parents, but M & D, he is right, you are. James’ porridge may sound philistine, cooked very, very slowly with loads and loads of full fat milk and not a drop of water or salt, but it is deliciously white and creamy and sooooo much nicer than yours! :-)

So much so that I now eat it every morning despite living in THE HOTTEST COUNTRY ON EARTH (arguably, but I would not want to argue with me over this right now, as I am sweating away under the fan, sitting still) and our nearly four-year-old daughter asks for it every breakfast, lunch and dinner. Honestly, she even gets excited when I give it to her as ‘pudding’. (I can sell anything as pudding if I put my mind to it.) And here is the point of this blog post. To advocate the delights and nutritious wonders of porridge oats for adults and children alike! Why? Well partly because a few people have asked me about oats lately. Strange this, now I come to think of it. They must have a sixth sense. And partly because most breakfast cereals are full of sugar and salt, and in Cambodia, are bloody expensive. But mostly because they are yummy, healthy and totally brilliant when you have no food in the fridge to give to your kids.

Look ‘em up in Wikipedia for all the facts but in a nutshell oats are brilliant to eat in the morning as they give you a slow steady energy flow which will easily last until lunchtime. Very good for tired mothers. Actually I eat them whenever I want a snack and energy boost (before you say it, chocolate is also not so available and pretty expensive in Cambodia). If they are ‘pure’ oats they are recommended as part of a gluten free diet as well, and, best of all, if you are a Brit with a tradition of pudding after meals, oats can be made into lots of yummy quick puds for impatient kids. Actually whenever the girls are tired and the prospect of a normal dinner seems unlikely, or unbearable, I just make them big bowls of porridge with fruit mashed in and we eat them on the sofa or in bed. The girls are happy and full and I have hardly any washing up to do. When I am in a hurry or especially lazy I give them raw oats with milk as they love those too. For Bella, until recently, I substituted cows’ milk with water and then added yoghurt and banana to make them creamier. With Jemima, in the days where I had a freezer full of expressed milk, I used breast milk until she was one. Here are Jemima and Bella’s favourite recipes:

Porridge with any cooked fruit puree – apple, apricot, prunes are favourites and (Prunes and apricots full of iron) but any will do. Mashed bananas are good too.

Porridge with raw fruits all pureed together (we always make fruit salad but because Bella hasn’t enough teeth to eat pineapple or apple chunks I just chuck some oats in a bowl with some fruit salad and blend it all up for her. Jemima, bless her innocence, considers this a seriously good pud in the way that you and I might consider cheesecake or chocolate tart... so eats this too.

Porridge with cinnamon sugar. Porridge with mango. Porridge with honey (no honey for babes under one year). Porridge with brown sugar. Porridge with jam. Chocolate porridge. Hmmm, you get the picture. Porridge with just about anything. Enjoy. And share your recipes with me too. There must be something I have not thought of that goes well with porridge!

If you liked this read these: Recipes for babies and children and
Baby-led weaning


Kasia said...

Great ode to porridge (AKA oatmeal in Canada:) Must say, I like the stuff too although it wasn't really introduced to me until I was an adult. Don't even know when. BUT, my absolute favourite is Pumpkin oatmeal. Yes, I said it, PUMPKIN oatmeal:) I mix 1 cup of milk with 1 cup of oats, 1/4 cup (or more) pureed pumpkin, 1 tsp of vanilla extract, 1 tsp of cinnamon or pumpkin spice. I cook it slowly, adding additional milk if I wish for it to be creamier. Sometimes we add raisins and/or almonds too. For a sweeter version I may add a tablespoon or 2 of brown sugar. This is even great cold. Hmmm. Now you may say, who on earth is going to cook a whole pumpkin and puree it? Well, fortunately, you can buy canned pureed pumpkin with no additives in it, usually used in pumpkin pie recipes. Just make sure you don't buy the pumpkin pie filling instead:) Apparently you can also make this with sweet potato. Enjoy

Georgie said...

Oh yum that sounds amazing! I love pumpkin pie so may even do the whole pumpkin and freeze some. I just stick in oven and then when roasted I scoop out flesh - easier than cutting and peeling and boiling etc. Thanks k! x

Anonymous said...

This is so amazing! I have recently started extolling the virtues of oats all over again and making sure we all eat them for breaky. Are we like on the same wavelength or what G?! L used to eat it for breakfast but is off it. I like it raw too - mainly as a muesli. My friend here gave me a great recipe - from her mother-in-law in Canada for GRANOLA - the main stay of which is oats. Dead easy and great fun to make with kids as they can get their hands in it and enjoy the goo and mix it every so often. It is crunchy and fun and you can add whatever you like (we don't get wheatgerm and flax seed here and honey is v. v. expensive so I subtitute rice flake, kithul (coconut) treacle and cashews etc.)

The recipe for Elspeth's Granola as it is known is:

Preheat oven to 300F. Mix together in large bowl:

10 cups old-fashioned oats (large oat flakes)
2 cups wheat germ OR 1 cup flax seed
2 cups wheat bran OR oat bran
1 cup unsweetened coconut
1 cup sesame seeds
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 ½ cups coarsely chopped almonds OR cashews

Mix together in a separate bowl:

1 cup liquid honey (I use Kithul coconut honey instead)
1 cup water
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt

Toss wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Turn mixture onto 2 – 12” x 19” cookie sheets (or equivalent). Bake in 300F. oven for about 1 ½ hours, stirring granola every 30 minutes. Finished product should be golden & slightly crispy. Cool thoroughly. Keep useable amount in tight container in fridge & freeze the rest for later use.

ENJOY - yum yum xxx

Georgie said...

Is that you Tara? Yum sounds lovely though half those ingredients can't be found in PP! And I love the whole fridge/freezer thing - (to keep out ants to all who do not live in ridiculous climes). We have so much stuff in our fridge and freezer that just should not be in there! xxx

Annalisa said...

I read your blog today, haven't had a chance to catch up on it in ages. I really enjoyed reading about porridge. I too was late to it. I have mine made with half water, half milk, then put fruit, seeds and - this is my piece de resistance, toasted (must be freshly toasted) almond flakes. And maple syrup. It's particularly nice in the summer when you have lots of lovely fresh fruit, like nectarines. In the winter we have 'secret banana', slices of banana hidden underneath that the porridge gently heats up. R HATES it though, she'd eat it as a toddler but not now. I wish she would.

But I'm starving after an hour eating it, it's a big carb hit. When I want to 'pad it out' I stir some lovely crunchy peanut butter into it for protein. As you can see...I'm very into porridge...

Georgie said...

oooh yummy and lovely to hear from you! That's funny you get so hungry so soon after... I always thought it was a slow energy releaser.. keeps me going for hours which is VERY unusual! hmmmm may go and have some now... Jemima is very much into jam with it at mo... hmmm not quite so healthy! gx

Ann-Marie Dewhurst said...

I too came to porridge late...I think Oliver Twist did such an injustice to the stuff! I love it with dried fruit and's such a healthy treat! It was one of the first foods Oz ate...his little hands used to smeart the stuff everywhere when we did baby-led solids! Milk is definately the key. I get hungry too after a hour of two...but I think it's to do with getting the metabolism going well in the morning? MMMmmmmmmmmmmm porridge..I think we'll have it for lunch!