Porridge has always been around of course but it has become fashionable in recent years. This doesn’t mean we should reject it as a fad; quite the reverse. In fact part of the reason it has become so popular is that its nutritional and health-giving properties have been well publicised. There are studies which show it can help reduce blood cholesterol levels, for example. Oats are low fat and have a low GI (glycaemic index) which means a slow release of the carbohydrate into your bloodstream so your energy levels are sustained for longer and you are less likely to feel hungry mid-morning.
Porridge doesn’t have to mean oats; it can also be made with rye, spelt or barley. I think the two brands of porridge oats most commonly found in our supermarkets are Quaker and Scott’s, but other names are coming to the fore and building a reputation for wholesome breakfast cereals. And we are discovering more about the different types of porridge; we are probably mostly used to oats which have been steamed and rolled into flakes (rolled oats like Quaker and Scott’s) but there are also the oats cut into two or three pieces (called, steel-cut, pinhead or coarse oatmeal). It is said that because of their size and shape, the body breaks these down more slowly, thus keeping you full for longer.
A bowl of porridge can be made fairly speedily using rolled oats, in a saucepan or the microwave, but pinhead oatmeal requires some forward planning. The instructions on the one we buy, by Rude Health (see photo), advise overnight soaking and this is where the Aga comes in, because a mere three or four minutes’ preparation at bedtime means one can wake up to a saucepan of porridge which requires just a quick stir and the addition of your favourite toppings.
So this is what you do:
- Just before you go to bed, place 75g oatmeal per person in a pan and add 600ml water. In truth, this makes a large portion so if making for two people, I only add half the amount again, ie I use 112g and 900ml water; for three people 150g/1.2l and so on. You can add a pinch of salt too if you like. My youngest son doesn’t like salt in his so I add a little to my own portion in the morning.
- Place your saucepan on the boiling plate and start whisking with a balloon whisk. Keep doing this for about a minute, making sure you get into every “corner” of the pan, and then transfer to the simmering plate and do the same for about two more minutes until the mixture is simmering.
- Cover and place in the simmering oven and go to bed.
- Next morning, put the kettle on (for tea), take the pan out of the oven and give the mixture a good stir with a wooden spoon. Serve.
You can now add whatever takes your fancy. Here are some options:
- A little cold milk and sprinkling of demerara sugar
- Dark muscovado sugar stirred into the porridge before adding milk or cream
- Maple syrup, raisins and a little double cream (husband’s favourite)
- Peanut butter
- Cinnamon and a little sugar
- Berries (blueberries, raspberries): keep some in the freezer and defrost overnight.