I was inspired a few years ago to start making porridge by a Scottish friend. It provides a substantial morning meal which releases energy slowly over several hours; it is filling, nutritious and can be augmented with a variety of foods including fruit, seeds, nuts, honey and maple syrup. Porridge can be made from porridge oats, jumbo oats or pinhead oatmeal – the latter takes longer to cook. It can be made with milk, water or a combination of the two. My porridge eating friend, who does not eat dairy products, uses a combination of rice milk and water; this produces a light porridge dish which has proved a hit with guests.
The World Porridge Making Championship 2009 was won by an American, Matthew Cox; his prize – the Golden Spurtle Trophy. The spurtle is a wooden implement used to mix porridge; people seem to have mixed views as to how useful a spurtle is, and the modern porridge maker is more likely to stir porridge with a wooden spoon. The 2010 Championship takes place on October 10, which is also World Porridge Day, at Carrbridge near Inverness.
In Scotland porridge was originally made in a huge pot over an open fire. Tradition has it that porridge was poured into a porridge drawer to set, and could then be cut into slices, making it easy to carry – an early form of packed lunch... It was a useful foodstuff for people working in the fields as, unlike oatcakes, it did not crumble when carried long distances. Many Scots have been brought up with brose – a form of uncooked porridge.
My personal porridge heaven involves adding banana and strawberries to a simmering porridge pot and letting the fruit melt into the oat and milk mixture (see my recipe below). This would, of course, be seen as porridge heresy by Scottish traditionalists who only add salt to their porridge. Below I offer you recipes for both, with thanks to Mary Mackechnie who told me her porridge recipe.
Mary’s Traditional Scottish Porridge
1 teacup oats
3 teacups water
1 level teaspoon salt
Heat the ingredients in a pan stirring constantly until they start bubbling. Cook the porridge on a low heat for at least 5 minutes.
Mary recommends soaking your porridge pan immediately. Doing so will allow the porridge left in the pan to form a skin which can be cleaned off easily.
Banana and Strawberry Porridge
Half a cup jumbo oats
Half a cup water
Half a cup milk
Half a banana
Bring the oats, milk and water to the boil stirring constantly, reduce heat and simmer gently. Chop banana and strawberries into small pieces and add to the porridge mixture. Simmer for c5 minutes, stirring regularly, until the mixture has thickened and the banana dissolved.
Vegan Banana and Strawberry Porridge
Follow the recipe as above but experiment with soya milk, rice milk and/or oat milk or substitute water for milk.