New and beautiful Porridge bowls, ready for an Autumn of recipe writing

Ridgleine BowlsOver the weekend I acquired a new set of bowls. These beautiful bowls are hand thrown, will all the lovely little imperfections that come with handmade pottery.

Ridgeline Bowls2I really needed some new bowls, as it was pointed out to me last week, that I use the same bowl everyday for my breakfast photo posted on Twitter (@Porridgelady). Oops!

Ridgeline Bowls4As a recipe writer I need a bevy of beautiful bowls, crockery and cutlery for my food styling and food photography. However at home I use pretty much the same bowl everyday. So step up new bowls and grace Twitter with your presence!

Ridgeline Bowls5I think this bowl is perfect for serving up my recipe of ‘Hobbit-y Porridge‘.

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Who is the world’s best Porridge maker?

The Golden Spurtle (2)With just over a week to go until the 2014 Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championships, there is just one question on all Porridge lovers lips… who will be crowned the worlds best Porridge maker for 2014?

GS Group smlThe Golden Spurtle takes place every October in the beautiful setting of Carrbridge in the Scottish Cairngorms. The competition is a global event, in the past few years it has attracted competitors from countries such as; Canada, USA, Germany and Scandinavia, all vying to be crowned the worlds top Porridge Chef.

I’ve loved being a competitor at the Golden Spurtle and I am happy to say that in 2009 I won the competitions the specialty section, with Matthew Cox winning the traditional section. It was the first time that the championship was won by an English person – me! and a non-UK nation, with Matthew taking the Golden Spurtle trophy back to Bob’s Red Mill in Oregon, U.S.A.

Winning in 2009 Porridge Lady & Matthew Cox

Winning in 2009 Porridge Lady & Matthew Cox

The big question in 2014 is will the much coveted Golden Spurtle stay in Scotland this year or will the global rise of Porridge popularity see it go overseas?

If you can’t be at the competition in person, keep an eye on the Golden Spurtle website and my Twitter stream (@porridgelady) as I will be relaying events as they happen.

Good luck to all the Golden Spurtle competitors and may the best bowl of Porridge win!

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Raspberry Chia Jam Porridge; a recipe for a refreshing breakfast

Chia Jam Porridge2I have been adding Chia seeds to my Porridge a LOT recently. After I’ve tweeted photos of my Chia Porridge breakfast’s (@PorridgeLady) I’ve had questions in return asking what Chia seeds are and how to use them.

Chia are small grey seeds which come from a plant native to Mexico. Whilst small in size the seeds pack a nutritional punch with high levels of:

  • Fiber
  • calcium,
  • manganese,
  • phosphorus, 
  • healthy omega-3 fats
  • and protein.

Much has also been written on Chia seeds and their role in disease prevention. A quick read of the internet will show you how the tiny seeds have been linked to reduced rates of diabetes and increased heart health.

Chia 2How do you add Chia seeds to your diet? Well the great thing about Chia is that you can eat them raw and cook with the seeds too. I add handfuls to cooked Porridge, sprinkle on salads and add to bread dough. For this Porridge recipe I cook the seeds to make an interesting and healthy fruit jam.

Raspberry Chia Jam Porridge

Serves: Two

Ingredients

1 punnet of raspberries

2 teaspoons of honey

3 tablespoons of Chia seeds

200ml cold water

1 cup of jumbo oats

2 cups of milk

Method

Wash and place the raspberries into a heavy based saucepan, adding enough cold water to cover the base of the pan.

Drizzle honey over the raspberries, then place the saucepan over a low heat and allow the berries to slowly break down.

Stir in the Chia seeds and add the water a little at a time. The amount of water that you need to add will depend on how juicy the raspberries are.

Keep cooking and stirring over a low heat for about 10 mins or until the Chia and raspberry mix is really thick, with a jelly consistency.

Remove the saucepan from the heat, allow to mix to cool fully then transfer to a sealable box and place in the fridge overnight.

In the morning make your Porridge with the oats and milk, cooking slowly, stirring plenty, and when it is thick and creamy pour into two bowls.

Spoon two or three generous dessert spoonfuls of the Chia jam onto the Porridge and swirl through.

Serve hot and enjoying a refreshing and super healthy breakfast.

Chia Jam Porridge1

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A recipe for the perfect oatcake?

WOM OatcakesOats are so versatile but aside from Porridge, their other culinary uses are all to often overlooked. That’s why I was so pleased to see the Guardian Newspaper featuring Oatcakes on their ‘Word of Mouth’ blog today.

From the type of oats to use, to the amount of liquid you should add to achieve the perfect consistency, the feature ‘How to cook the perfect oatcakes’ provides plenty of top tips.

My favourite method of making oatcakes is the Hebridean way, with coarse oatmeal and sea salt and you can find my recipe on Mornflake website.

Couthie Spurtle

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Cherry picking organic

Brogdale CherriesIf you read my blog regularly you will have noticed peaks and troughs in my posting. You see I’ve been wrapped up in a new project, quiet a big project, of roughly a hectare in size!

Earlier this year I took ownership of a plot of land that over the last few months I have been working to turn into a cherry orchard. I have written about my project for the Soil Association blog and you can read all about my project here.

Part of the work to get the plot ready has involved speaking to experts and visiting orchards. Back in July I had the opportunity to travel to Kent and visit Brogdale, home to the National Fruit Collection. My visit was for a very specific reason, to visit the annual Cherry Festival.

Brogdale Cherry Sale_For a cherry fanatic the day was a feast for the eyes, with an orchard tour and for the stomach, with an opportunity to taste and array of cherry varieties. However the key thing that I learned from my trip was the importance of having Brogdale as a national repository of fruit varieties (not just cherries, apples, pears, quinces too). As agriculture intensifies  we loose the depth and breath of fruit varieties that are commercially grown.

Whether you are a grower or an eater of fruits I hope that you too will think about visiting one of Brogdale’s open days. In an attempt to persuade you I’m going to share my photos from a very enjoyable day out….

Brogdale Cherry Display smlBrogdale Cherry Sale2Brogdale Cherry Sale3Brogdadle Cheery Orachrd1 smlBrogdale orchards

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My ‘Little Food Finds': Lincoln Coffee House

Lincoln Coffee 1In spite of the cafe’s name this review is actually about tea and to call it ‘my’ Little Food Find is a bit of a cheek too as my visit to Lincoln Coffee House actually came through a tip off ;-)

Earlier this month I reviewed afternoon tea at Reading’s ‘Cerise’ restaurant. I received a lot of comments on Twitter (@porridgelady) about the review from people who didn’t know that Cerise existed and locals who didn’t know they served afternoon tea. However the comments mostly came from a people recommending other places to find good tea in Reading. Pointing out one overlooked venue was Reading’s restaurant reviewer ‘Edible Reading‘. It was on his recommendation that I popped along to Lincoln, and what better time to have gone than in Afternoon Tea Week.

My first impression of Lincoln was that it’s very much a coffee house rather than a tea room. All exposed brickwork and sleek clean lines means Lincoln would not be out of place in Shoreditch or Hoxton. However my prejudice was quickly overcome when the barista turned into a tea guru when he weighed the leaves with which he was about to make my tea!

Lincoln Coffee 2Taking a seat to watch the very welcoming staff at work, I saw quality tea being made with care. The tea was then presented to me in a very cute little pot with a small bottle of milk and most importantly an egg timer. After instructions I was left wait for the tea to brew, waiting for the sands of time to pass through the timer.

The tea was refreshing and surprisingly plentiful (the pot looked tiny when it arrived) and I was offered a water top up too. It’s also nice to be served cold milk. So often milk that accompanies tea is slightly warm. I sat reading a book and enjoyed the mildly hipster venue with subtle music and constant, but not too busy, customer traffic. However, and for me this is a huge mark against Lincoln, once I had consumed a reasonable sized pot of tea I thought that it would be a reasonable request for the toilets. To be told that they do not have a customer toilet and to be on the side of town that doesn’t have a public toilet, is annoying. I don’t think I’m alone in expecting a cafe to provide a toilet, I certainly know amongst my women friends a clean toilet is a prerequisite for a good cafe.  

So in ‘Lincoln Coffee House’ have I found Reading’s best tea room? Sorry to say, and in spite of the tea attention to detail, a lack of customer toilet means it’s a no.

For those of you with a strong bladder:

Lincoln Coffee House

60 Kings Road, 

Reading,

Berkshire,

RG1 3AA

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Organic September needs a recipe for success!

Organic September

In my post for the Soil Association this month I’m writing on my frustrations with the supermarkets. No not want you might think! You see I’m currently writing recipes for publications that are highlighting the month-long celebration of sustainable food that is ‘Organic September’. But there is a hitch, I’m finding it hard to get hold of organic ingredients in the ‘Big Four’. So in the post I ask the supermarkets to step-up as;

Organic September needs a recipe for success.

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My ‘Little Food Finds': Cerise

Cerise Tea

If you have ever lived or worked in Reading (Berkshire) you have probably heard the rumour that there is a restaurant called ‘Cerise’. With a reputation bordering on mythical, it’s one of those places you’ve heard of, sort of know where it is, but have never actually been to.

My interest in Cerise was recently sparked after reading a review written by ‘Edible Reading’, the town’s very own near mythical, anonymous restaurant reviewer! Edible Reading gave Cerise a healthy ranking of 7.9 (out out of 10) and categorized the restaurant as ‘special occasion’ dining. After a quick look at the restaurants menu on-line my interest was sparked, not by the a la carte dinning, but by afternoon tea!

If you have ever read my blog before you will know that I have more than a healthy interest in tea. I am always looking for interesting tea rooms and of course afternoon tea. Whilst Reading has a fantastic choice of coffee houses, the town lacks a good tea room. I have tried tea in several of Reading’s cafe’s and the offerings range from; dish water to a good builders brew. However nowhere in the town centre serves a proper pot of excellent loose leaf tea and so when I saw that Cerise served ‘bespoke’ leaf tea I was hopeful. 

On a sticky, sultry afternoon, when my work had come to a grinding halt, and with it my good humor, I decided it was time for a break and a Cerise afternoon tea treat. I made my booking on-line which was simple and easy for a weekday sitting. Weekends tend to be booked up so you would need to plan ahead, especially for a Sunday afternoon tea.  I arrived to a quiet restaurant, frequented mostly by hotel guests (Cerise is also the restaurant for the Forbury hotel). I had two seating options, either the very air conditioned restaurant or  the courtyard area. On the advice of the waitress I chose the courtyard and it was good advice!

It’s hard to believe that in amongst all the hussle and bustle of Reading’s central shopping area exists a oasis of calm. The courtyard area is naturally cool and with it’s own water feature, very calming. Gasping I immediately ordered from the menu and opted for the lighter ‘Cerise cream tea’ rather than the ‘full afternoon tea’. I chose Banaspaty tea (from the Assam region, though nothing like a builders brew Assam!) from good selection of tea offerings sourced from Les Jardains de Gaia.

Cerise SconesMy tea arrived promptly followed by freshly baked scones, beautifully arranged with fruit and accompanied with a huge amount of clotted cream and jam. The tea was robust, thirst quenching and well just really good! The scones were light, the plate looked pretty but in all honesty the scones were tiny. No more then a few bites each, after eating the scones I was left with enough cream and jam to layer up a Victoria sponge! However the tea was plentiful and I was offered another pot, I had a second Banaspaty. Then an another, this time choosing Earl Grey which was beautifully presented with lemon slices but the tea was disappointingly from bag.

In spite of the tiny scones my afternoon tea at Cerise was was lovely. The location and the prompt, friendly service that refreshingly came without airs and graces made for a restful afternoon. At £8.50 (plus service) a Cerise cream tea is a good option for hearty tea drinkers (like me) whilst the cake lovers amongst you would need to go up to the full afternoon tea.

Have I found Reading’s answer to a tea room? No. What Cerise excels at is offering high-er end afternoon teas in lovely surroundings perfect for ‘treat’ afternoon teas. Would I go back? For a peaceful break whilst visiting the town, most defiantly.

Cerise

26 The Forbury,

Reading,

Berkshire,

RG1 3EJ

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Butter coffee; Is caffeine reaching new heights?

Coffee

When I heard about the new food trend for ‘Butter Coffee’ on Twitter I thought it sounded quiet tasty. After all we add full milk to make the silkiest latte’s and cream to make a filter coffee that much smoother.  So butter coffee, simple and creamy, what’s not to like? However being a new coffee ‘trend’ it was never going to be that easy!

Meet Dave Asprey entrepreneur, ‘bio-hack’ and founder of ‘Bulletproof’ the bean behind the ‘Butter Coffee’ trend. Now ‘Bulletproof’ isn’t just about lobbing butter into your cooling coffee, it’s a whole system of coffee making from ‘clean beans’ to adding coconut oil and blending butter to make the final cup. It is reported that Dave Asprey was inspired to create this new form of coffee from the 18,000 feet height of Mt. Kailash in Tibet.

With health claims including increased and balanced energy levels (no caffeine highs and lows) to fat burning and improved mental clarity, Butter Coffee has been an instant hit, especially with followers of the ‘Clean Eating’ trend and followers of the Paleo Diet. However Butter Coffee is not without it’s critics. Dietitians are warning that adding the requisite 80g of butter will calorie load your daily cup by up to 200 calories. 

Like I said at the beginning I still like the idea of Butter Coffee but do you? Have you tried it Bulletproof style? I’d love to know what you think. In the meantime I’m off to the kitchen to pop a chunk of butter into my coffee, homemade style ;-)

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Lone dining or loner dining? Is a table for one the new restaurant trend?

Cheesecake sml

I was interested to read the BBC article this morning ‘Tables for one, the rise of solo dining’. Commenting on how more restaurants now cater for single diners, and noting Amsterdam’s new pop-up restaurant Eenmaal, (which only has tables for one) the article went on to question the motivations of lone diners. 

I recently commented on social media in reaction to the Guardian Newspapers article ‘Table for one? Restaurant offers giant stuffed animals for company’. This article reported how a Japanese restaurant offers its lone dining clientele large Moomin toys to sit with they whilst they eat, in an attempt to banish loneliness. Most social media reaction I received was from those who regularly ate alone whilst on business. These commentators preferred a good book to a large toy for companionship!  However is a book just a way of avoiding gaze from fellow ‘smug married‘ diners?

Now before you paint me as a dining no-mates (as opposed the the Billy variety) I will defend myself by saying there I think there is nothing better than a celebratory meal, coffee, croissants and gossip or afternoon tea and sympathy with girl-friends. However I’m with Inspector Montalbano the legendary lone-diner of Andrea Camilleri’s books, in the enjoyment of eating alone. Montalbano frequents wonderful coastal trattoria where he sits to enjoy three course lunches; the flavours, the aromas, the work of art on his plate, without having to make idle small talk.

As I take my lunch table for one I’d love to know what you think….

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