Dabbler Soup – Doing porridge

I know that it’s winter because the miasmic reek of porridge hangs heavily over our office. It’s bought into the building in cardboard cups, thick and stiff like wallpaper paste and glammed up with jam, bananas or compote. And thriftily, instant oats are stirred into milk and heated in the microwave, making the kind of soothing, bland pap that you don’t entirely remember eating.

The almost chewable smell of hot oats lingers all morning because porridge is the breakfast of choice for diligent worker bees. It’s economic, it’s healthy and it’s hard working – slowly digested so you won’t want to get up from your desk until lunchtime. Croissants and cappuccinos belong to the boom years. In straightened times, porridge and tea is what the industrious eat to show that they’re humble.

But I’ve never been able to keep food modest and simple. During the week I make porridge with jumbo rolled oats that I soak overnight in water with a handful of raisins or sultanas. More water, grated apple and cinnamon go into the pot with them and five minutes later I dish the porridge up, topped with a spoonful of sour natural yogurt.

But on the weekend I use steel cut oats. While jumbo oats are steamed before rolling so that they’re partially cooked and make for a fast porridge, steel cut oats (pinhead oats) are the whole grain that has been simply been chopped into three or four pieces.

They’re hard little things that rattle in the tin, but they make by far the best porridge – textured and chewy, held together in a silken, glutinous mess. It takes a little work (it’s porridge, diligence and hard labour is always involved somewhere along the line) but served steaming hot from the pan with cold cream and a slug of whisky, it makes a good breakfast for retiring back to bed with on an endless Sunday morning.

Porridge with cream and whisky

Serves 1

1 litre water
40g steel cut oats
1-2 tbsp double cream
1 tbsp good whisky
1 tsp honey

1. Bring the water to the boil, then sprinkle in the oats with a small pinch of salt. Bring back to the boil, stirring constantly, then reduce to heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, for about 30–40 minutes or until the porridge is thick and creamy.

2. Spoon into a warm bowl and pour over the cold cream, the whisky and the honey. Eat immediately.

You can read more Jassy at her blog Gin and Crumpets.
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12 thoughts on “Dabbler Soup – Doing porridge

  1. Gaw
    November 17, 2010 at 13:02

    That sounds like quite a sound hangover cure. Perhaps with a modest bacon sandwich to start.

    I do enjoy honey in my porridge. It’s nice to play the field a bit with different sorts of honey – because of porridge’s blandness the particular flavours come across very well.

  2. Brit
    November 17, 2010 at 13:27

    You don’t ‘glam it up with jam’ then Gaw? A brilliant phrase.

    My loathing of porridge is dwarfed only by my terror of mashed potato, which borders on a phobia.

  3. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    November 17, 2010 at 13:27

    Tommy Sheridan has ceased eating his porridge, as he will shortly be doing it. If, Jassy, by ‘good whisky’ you mean Macallan and the porridge is Scots then I am with you kid, only way to start the day, puts hair on chests and the salt in the ire.

  4. mcrean@snowpetrel.net'
    November 17, 2010 at 14:11

    I love porridge, though the weather here hasn’t been grim enough yet this winter for it to be more than an occasional fixture. Can’t find steel cut oats so I use the jumbo ones with all the fruity bits you mention. Besides, I’m too greedy to want to wait 40 minutes for steel cut ones to cook. I like to chuck in some crystallized ginger or accompany the porridge with chai brewed with ginger and cardamon. I made the ginger cake you wrote up a week ago. Delicious. Ginger on the brain.

  5. Worm
    November 17, 2010 at 14:13

    I eat porridge every morning – with a sprinkle of cinnamon, some blueberries, a handful of crushed pecan nuts and then sweetened with agave nectar to keep the GI low. Damn tasty stuff indeed

    I can imagine the pinhead oats version of porridge being somewhat like a sweet Risotto!

    My grandfather was extremely scottish, and he used to force me to eat salty porridge, which I definately DIDN’T like.

  6. russellworks@gmail.com'
    ian russell
    November 17, 2010 at 14:43

    Sounds good.

    I’m sorry but porridge has to be eaten standing up, as tradition dictates. Otherwise no good will come of the day…

    • dslevin2000@yahoo.com'
      December 6, 2010 at 05:12

      Porridge has to be eaten standing up!
      Who knew?
      Well maybe it`s a Scots thing…..

  7. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    November 17, 2010 at 15:06

    Gino’s chippy in pollokshields serves up deep fried porridge, allegedly. Try cooking it at 15,000 ft in a snow hole over a petrol stove, mixed with melted snow, last nights salami sandwich thrown in as ballast, stiffens the resolve.

  8. peter.burnet@hotmail.com'
    November 17, 2010 at 15:13

    There is a wonderful scene in one of Waugh’s novels (I think in the trilogy) where an old crusty reactionary who ate porridge every day of his life was served cornflakes for the first time. As I recall, he was disgusted and concluded the Empire’s days were numbered and the torch had been passed across the pond..

  9. b.smedley@dsl.pipex.com'
    November 18, 2010 at 09:24

    I like to buy steel-cut oats, mostly because I love the old-fashioned looking tins, but since no one in my family can stand the resulting porridge (I haven’t tried dosing it with whisky yet) the steel-cut oats end up in the toppings for apple-and-bramble crumble, while the more tolerable jumbo oats, once stewed up as porridge, benefit from unwholesome amounts of raw butter to balance whatever health benefits the blueberries (pushed under the surface with a spoon and then excavated, a happy surprise, as soon as they are reliably warm) are alleged to confer. Oh dear, now I am hungry again, and I’ve already had breakfast once today!

  10. gindrinkers@googlemail.com'
    November 18, 2010 at 13:10

    @Gaw It’d be a great hangover cure, but only if you can persuade someone to make it for you while you stay in bed with a damp flannel on your forehead and a bacon sandwich starter by your side.

    @Brit Are you afraid of white, slightly soppy food? Does risotto and cauliflower cheese cause you similar problems?

    @malty By good whisky, I mean Bowmore but for oats I cross the sea and use McCann’s steel cut oats. I like to consider my porridge an multicultural, international affair.

    And there’s nothing that isn’t improved by a bit of batter and being deep fried.

    @Mark Ooh, I like the idea of crystallised ginger. And chai. There is an Indian restaurant near my office that does breakfast and I have started to become dependent on their takeaway chai to start the day. Glad you enjoyed the gingerbread.

    @Worm It is a bit like sweet risotto! It has more chew than the jumbo oats, which is fine on the weekends because I have time on the weekend to chew my breakfast but on weekdays it’s slurpy jumbo oats.

    Salty porridge on its own is grim. I made gruel at the start of the year, which was the worst. But a little bit of salt in with the oats and then a sweet topping makes for a good contrast.

    @ian Do you also eat it with the a traditional horn spoon?

    @Peter Waugh was completely right. Cornflakes indeed.

    @Barendina Pinhead oats do take a bit of getting used to after the easy eating of jumbo oats, but the flavour is much nicer. Liking the raw butter and blueberries!

  11. jay@tinysilverfish.com'
    November 20, 2010 at 09:38

    Awwww, now, did you have to post this? Don’t you know how much I used to love porridge until I became allergic to oats? Good grief… it’s torture, I tell you!

    Fondly do I remember eating porridge on winter mornings, simmered in the pan until my mother plopped a ladleful into the bowl with a swirl of cold, creamy milk so that it instantly set at the edges. It was the best breakfast in the world.


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