Winter breakfasts: Porridge

Porridge with toasted walnuts, cinnamon, Greek yoghurt and maple syrup It’s been years since I ate porridge regularly for breakfast. Lumpy and overboiled, it was always a one of the foods that I hated as a child – unless it was made in the Aga at Oldcastletown by my grandfather. Put into the bottom oven the previous night, his porridge was one of the highlights if we stayed overnight. I went through a porridge phase at college as it was cheap and seemed to be filling. It was then that I discovered how digestible oats actually are, as I would end up being hungry about half way through my first lecture.

Since then the only reason I’ve had porridge oats in the house is to make Anzac Biscuits, Oaty Apricot Biscuits or to experiment with a few more Flapjack recipes until a few weeks ago when we met a couple of the Boyfriend’s friends for early brunch on a Sunday morning. It being rather earlier than my normal Sunday rising time, I decided that I was too delicate for the more robust items on the menu (Eggs Hollandaise, Savoury Muffins, a fried breakfast) and instead went for the Porridge with Boysenberries and Greek Yoghurt. What arrived was a creamy concoction spiked with sunflower seeds, coloured a delicate pink from the boysenberries, and topped with a great dollop of Greek yoghurt. A most delicious and comforting bowlful.

I had no sooner scraped the bowl clean, than I was thinking of variations to try at home. Sunflower seeds seem to prevent hunger pangs from settling in too soon so they would have to be added. Toasted walnuts, cinnamon, Greek yoghurt and maple syrup, perhaps? Obviously frozen boysenberries would have to be purchased for my own experiments and what about chopped dried apricots, yoghurt and toasted flaked almonds?

Porridge is a true weekend breakfast as I have neither the time nor inclination to go fiddling around with pots and pans in the morning before work. Not to mention cleaning of the porridge pot, never an altogether pleasant job. I use a small red cast-iron saucepan for the cooking, which is a good defence against letting the porridge burn. Make life easier for yourself by always soaking the pot in cold water immediately after you serve your porridge. The variations are endless although I must admit to a weakness for the chopped dried apricots, yoghurt and toasted flaked almonds combination, especially when the apricots are stirred through the porridge and the yoghurt is floated on top beneath the almonds. Every mouthful thus brings a taste and texture contrast between the hot porridge, cold yoghurt, sweet apricots and crunchy almonds. Yummy!

All amounts are per person
Porridge oats – 1 cup
Sunflower seeds – 1 tablespoon
Salt – a pinch
Milk – 1 cup
Water – 1 cup

To serve: natural or Greek yoghurt; milk or cream; chopped dried fruits eg figs, apricots, apples; toasted nuts eg walnuts, almonds or pecans; maple syrup; brown sugar; frozen soft fruits, added in at the cooking stage; fresh fruit…

Put the porridge, sunflower seeds and salt into a heavy-based pot. Add the milk and water and cook over a moderate heat. When bubbling, turn the heat down to low and continue to cook for about five minutes or to taste.

Decant into a bowl and add desired toppings.
Serves one very hungry person.


Food writer. Broadcaster. Blogger. Author. Married to Eight Degrees Brewing. Member of the Irish Food Writers' Guild, founder of Irish Food Bloggers Association and co-author of Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer & Cider (New Island)

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8 Responses

  1. Rob says:

    Ok, here’s another variation: sweet persimmon, a fruit that’s completly new to me. I never knew it existed until a few months ago.Anyway, we recently re-discovered porridge, and in a sudden genius-like flash of inspiration one morning, I added some pieces of persimmon to my bowl (it felt right – I can’t explain it more). The flavour (almost honey-like) was fantastic with the porrige – highly recommended.

  2. Caroline says:

    Rob: I must admit to having admired a sweet persimmon in the market recently, buying it…and then letting it go off in the fruit bowl! The next time I hope to get up enough courage to eat it before it goes rotten. I like the sound of sweet persimmon sliced into porridge.

    Speaking of fruits/vegetables that we may not have come across at home, have you made pumpkin soup yet? I made a huge pot of it last night with curry spices and coconut milk and, judging by the reactions of my housemates and the Boyfriend, it is definitely a tasty new addition to my repertoire of soup recipes. I’ll be posting the recipe here soon.

  3. Barbara says:

    I rediscovered my ’80’s crockpot recently and now put the porridge in the crockpot and turn it on before we go to bed. It makes the best porridge and I guess similar to using the Aga. I love persimmon so must try it in the porridge. Sometimes I add grated apple and sultanas to the crockpot porridge.

  4. Caroline says:

    Barbara: Crockpots – I presume the one you’re talking about is an electric one – are a big thing here in New Zealand. There are lots of books on crockpot cooking ie being able to throw the veg/meat/flavourings into the pot in the morning before you go to work and coming home to a perfectly cooked dinner. Are they any good? I never came across them in Ireland. Cooking porridge in a crockpot should, I think, be the modern equivalent of my grandfather’s bottom oven in the Aga!

  5. Barbara says:

    I rcently heard the Holts’ talking on radio about their latest recipe book for crockpots and dragged mine out of the laundry where it’s been languishing for a few years. I was never happy with the results I had with the meat and vegies thrown in and left all day. Now I use it for porridge, roasting a chicken and soup. Roasting the chicken was my greatest discovery and now I use it all the time. It doesn’t brown the skin so I’m not tempted and as I need to save on calories currently it suits me. I have also used it for mulled wine – succesfully!

  6. Caroline says:

    Sounds like a very multi-purpose piece of kitchen equipment – porridge, chicken and mulled wine! I had misgivings about cooking stew-type efforts for an entire day too. Surely they’d be simmered to extinction if they were on for eight hours? And what about browning the meat before you put it in the pot with liquids and vegetables – does the crockpot allow you to do that? I think that that step makes a big difference to the taste of the eventual meal.

  7. David Riley says:

    Cleaning the porridge pot needn’t be a chore. Use a heavy non-stick saucepan and don’t soak it. Just leave it on one side. A couple of hours later (or when you get home from work) you will be left with a dried skin of porridge which will peel off effortlessly.

  8. Caroline says:

    Thanks for the tip, David. Sounds like a great lazy way around the whole washing up problem!

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