I love porridge. Not only on a cold winter's morning, but every day for breakfast - and possibly lunch or dinner - all year round. At university, I was known to skip a portion of chips on the way home from a night club in favour of returning home to make porridge. If we are what we eat, I am an oat.
Porridge's recent rise in popularity has often been within the context of the growing influence of Scandinavian culture, the much-cited concept of hygge and the experimentation with different grains - millet, buckwheat, rye, spelt, amaranth. But, for me, the humble oat porridge is quintessentially British. Porridge adorns our national breakfast table, whether it's served with a dash of drambuie in Scotland or a sliced half-banana, a sprinkle of sugar and a splash of milk in my family home on England's South coast.
As I've grown, my porridge has evolved with me. I'm certainly no porridge purist; on the contrary, I've found that porridge is the perfect base for an experimental cook - a litmus test of flavour combinations and textures, if you will. It is mild enough to withstand aromatic spices and sweet fruit computes, and even works well savoury flavours from miso to mushroom. Nuts, seeds and increasingly hipster toppings (bee pollen, anyone?) make the perfect foil to porridge's creaminess, yet it retains enough bite to withstand a velvety slick of yogurt or crème fraîche.
This winter, one of my favourite porridge flavourings has been just a touch of cocoa powder. Here, it's deep bitterness marries so well with the mellow sweetness of ground hazelnuts and vanilla, and with the sunshine of orange and cardamom. With its crown of honeyed pairs, the crunch of hazelnuts and a swirl of thick Greek yogurt, it makes an ideal bowlful for a slow, soulful morning.
For the porridge:
- 1 large mug oats (about 100-120g depending on your appetite)
- 1 large mug water
- 1 large mug milk
- 1 tsp cocoa powder
- Zest of half an orange
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste
- 1 tbsp ground hazelnuts
For the topping:
- 1 pear, thinly sliced or cut into chunks
- 1 tsp honey
- Greek yogurt, to serve
- Chopped toasted hazelnuts, to serve
- Brown sugar, to serve
- Prepare all the ingredients - zesting, chopping, toasting and grinding - before you begin
- Place all the porridge ingredients in a pan and cook over a low heat, stirring often with a wooden spoon, for 10 minutes or until the porridge is thick and creamy
- Meanwhile, place the pear in a small pan with the honey and 2 tablespoons of water. Cook over a medium-low heat for 5 minutes, or until the water has evaporated and the pear is lightly golden
- Divide the porridge between bowls and top with the pear, Greek yogurt and toasted hazelnuts. If you are a sweet tooth, like me, a sprinkle of soft brown sugar is also lovely.