Spurtles: which wood?

I am asked a lot of question on social media about Porridge from what oats to use, to how to avoid Porridge explosions in the microwave. However the most frequently asked questions are always about the Spurtle. 

The Spurtle is often a new piece of cooking kit to Porridge makers, so raises a lots of questions. To answers these questions I’ve written posts on; where to buy a Spurtle, how to compete in the Golden Spurtle, the World Porridge Making Championships and a long post on Spurtle ‘customs, myths and legends‘. 

I thought I’d well and truly covered the Spurtle here on the blog until I was asked a really important question; what wood should a Spurtle be made from? It’s a good question because using the wrong wood for cooking implements can leave you with a Spurtle that discolours or even breaks. To seek an authoritative answer to the question I spoke with Derek Andrews of the Seafoam Woodturning Studio

From his studio in Nova Scotia, Derek makes a range of beautiful wooden home and garden wares but most importantly Derek makes beautiful Spurtles. Derek’s informed advice falls into two categories; 

1 The wood should be durable and closed grain

Derek advises using a wood that does not have large open pores, such as oak, for reasons of hygiene.

2 The wood shouldn’t have a strong odour, or colour

As that might leach out that’s why Derek uses sugar maple in his Canadian workshop. 

So what wood should you choose? In the UK Derek advises choosing a Spurtle made of Beech or Sycamore wood. Derek also suggests Cherry which means I should get into Spurtle production once my orchard is fully established! 

There is one last consideration for your Spurtle; soft or hardwood? Resin in wood can taint foods so it is best to avoid sooftwoods for Spurtles. If you want to read more about resin, tannic acid, the sutainablity and locality of your wood choice have a read of this post that provides a full list of wood choices and their advantages. 

I hope this post helps you find the right Spurtle for you to make the perfect, lump free Porridge. 

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Overnight Oats, a new way with a trusty recipe.

Ages ago I wrote a recipe for ‘Refrigerator Porridge’, a chilled breakfast to enjoy on a hot day. At that time I drew oaty inspiration from the Swiss tradition for Bircher Muesli, where the oats are soaked overnight. Little did I know that a few years later this way of pre-preparing breakfast would turn into the trend of ‘Overnight Oats’.

As the name suggests this way with oats is based on making breakfast, with a whole variety of additions, the night before. Since writing it, I’ve been using my recipe every summer for years so I decided it was time for an update, to get with the overnight oats trend, but still keeping with my tried and tested recipe, adding a little on the way. So if you’ve never tried overnight oats, or have not got on with some of the recipes you have seen on-line,  I hope I can win you over with my simple and dependable recipe;

Refreshed Refrigerator Porridge!

Ingredients 

2 cups milk or mylk

2 cups cold water 

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 dessert spoons of chia seeds 

1 cup jumbo oats

1/2 cup rye flakes

1/2 cup barley flakes

1/2 cup fresh, frozen, or freeze dried strawberries

1 tablespoon toasted sunflower & pumpkin seeds

1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon

Soft fruits; fresh apricots, peach or nectarine

Serves – Two

Preparation –  Soak overnight, no-cook recipe

Method

In a deep bowl place the milk, cold water and add the Vanilla. Leave to infuse for 5 min.

Add the chia seeds and stir well. 

Then add the oats, rye and barley flakes, making sure that all the flakes are covered.

Add the strawberries and give all the ingredients in the bowl a good stir. I’ve started to use freeze dried strawberries as they give a really intense flavour, but frozen are really handy and fresh in the height of summer, are delicious. 

Cover the bowl and place in the fridge overnight.

In the morning wash and slice your chosen soft fruits.

Remove the bowl from the fridge, add the cinnamon, fresh fruits and toasted seeds (I toast a batch ahead of time and store in an airtight container). 

Serve cold and eat on a hot morning.

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Chagayu Porridge, bringing tea and Porridge together from my travels

For the second dish in my series of ‘International Porridge Recipes’ its time for lunch. Whilst savoury Porridge has become a trend in Britian over the last few years, Porridge made for lunch and dinner is a staple in Japan, so before heading off on my travels I read up on different Japanese Porridge dishes. 

‘Chagayu’ or ‘Tea Porridge’ is the most famous of the savoury Porridge options. However on arriving in Japan I found it hard to track down. Chagayu is made from rice that has been cooked in tea and has has three culinary traditions; it is served as a restorative Porridge to people who are ill. It is cooked up for helpers at big events such as festivals and weddings. It is also known as Kenzui in tea growing regions, where it is served to tea pickers in the fields as a sort of elevenses.

It makes sense that it wasn’t until I reached to famous tea growing region of the Kyoto Prefecture that I started to come across Tea Porridge. From then on I found the dish made with the specialty tea of the area from high grade matcha to ‘builders brew’ bancha tea. Definitely the best Chagayu I ate on my travels was served in Cafe Kanna, Nara, the 8th century capital of Japan. By the time I had reached Nara I was travel weary and hungry. Wandering the streets of the city looking for lunch I was stopped by a local lady and her dog, who took it upon themselves to be my Tea Porridge tour guide, and help me find Cafe Kanna. It was worth the search!

Whilst I got to try variations of Chagayu, my recipe is based on the tea flavours that I felt best complemented the dish. I’ve paired that with toppings and accompaniments that make this a nutritious dish (think of it as an alternative to chicken soup) whilst I hope also keeping it simple enough to be served for a hearty lunch.

Chagayu – Tea Porridge 

Ingredients 

200g wholegrain rice

1 Litre water

2 teaspoons roasted tea

Seasonal vegetables

Seaweed

Oily fish such as mackerel

Makes: Two hearty portions

Takes: 2 hours pre-soaking 30 mins cooking

Method

Rinse and soak the rice for two hours.

Place the water a deep heavy based saucepan and heat to below the boil.

Place the loose leaf tea in an infuser. I use Tencha tea from Obubu tea farm in Wazuka, Kyoto, but any roasted Japanese tea such as Hojicha will make a tasty Porridge.

Put the infuser into the saucepan of water and heat for 10 mins. Then remove the infuser.

Discard the water than the rice has been soaking in.  Rinse again and then place into the tea water.

Cook the rice for 20 mins or until it is soft.

Whilst the rice is cooking wash and steam your choice of seasonal vegetables. Once cooked take the water from the vegetables and add to the cooking rice.

Then prepare the fish; I use mackerel, either grilled fillets or tinned for a quick lunch. 

Once everything is cooked take two wide, deep bowls. Layer in the vegetables, then the rice Porridge and finally the fish. Finally garnish the dish with the seaweed and serve hot.

From a cold to a long day at work, I hope that Chagayu will restore your spirits and your energy levels, and show you yet another delicious way to enjoy ‘International Porridge’.

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Shiruko Porridge, a new recipe from my travels in Japan

What is Porridge? From traditional slow cooked Scottish coarse oatmeal, to a Porridge pot eaten at a commuters desk in a London office, in the UK we think of Porridge as being a breakfast dish made from oats. Go to Scandinavia and you will breakfast on multi-grain Porridge’s made with barley and rye, but still oats too. Travel a bit further to Eastern Europe and you will be served Kasha, a buckwheat Porridge. A deliciously different flavour to oat Porridge but still a grain based Porridge. Its not until you travel long-haul that you enter a really different realm of Porridge and its this long-distance travel that inspires my new recipe.

Recently back from a month in Japan, I’ve brought back with me a suitcase full of recipe ideas and a different way of seeing Porridge. During my travels I enjoyed three types of Porridge made from; beans, rice and corn. These dishes gave me a new type of Porridge for breakfast but also lunch and dinner too. I will be writing up three new recipes over the coming weeks but first up is a distinctly different way to do breakfast! 

Red Beans or Adzuki/Aduki beans are everywhere in Japanese cooking. Cooked whole or made into a paste, served as a savoury or sweetened, these beans pop up in everything from ice cream sundaes to Sekihan, a savoury festival dish filled with magic beans! Needless to say I managed to find Adzuki bean Porridge and loved it.

Red Bean Porridge is served several ways in Japan but the two key types of Adzuki Porridge are;

Zenzai Porridge –  is generally cooked from a pre-made sweetened paste of adzuki beans and topped with mochi (glutinous rice sweet).

Shiruko Porridgea more watery variety, where the adzuki beans generally served whole.

There are plenty of regional and seasonal varieties of Red Bean Porridge including; a summer version where the beans are served over shaved ice, a savoury version that is served with salty pickled plums (umeboshi), and a winter special served with chestnuts.

For this recipe I’ve followed a traditional way of cooking red bean Porridge but have topped this dish with fruit rather than the conventional Japanese mochi balls. I’ve made the changes for flavour, seasonality and to make sure there isn’t too much sugar in the recipe. I’ve also listed optional extras at the end of the recipe for you try different ways with these versatile beans.  

Shiruko Porridge

Ingredients

100g Dried adzuki beans

Pinch of Himalayan salt

Sweetener of choice

2 firm pears

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

 

Makes: 2 hearty breakfasts

Takes: Pre-soaking plus 35 mins cooking 

Method 

  • Wash the adzuki beans. Place in a large, deep saucepan, cover with water and leave to soak overnight.
  • In the morning discard the water and rinse the beans again. Then cover the beans with fresh water, place the saucepan over a high heat and boil for 5 mins.
  • Add the salt and then reduce the heat to a simmer. 
  • Whilst the beans are cooking add your sweetener of choice. I use two teaspoons of Xylitol but rice malt syrup or yuzu are authentic options. Honey is a good option too. 
  • Cook the beans for 20-30 mins or until they are soft.
  • Whilst the beans are cooking wash and peel the pears.
  • Warm a separate, large saucepan of water and add the vanilla.
  • Place the pears into this warmed water and simmer over a low heat.
  • Once the adzuki beans are cooked spoon into bowls.
  • Carefully remove the pears, slice and garnish the beans.
  • Serve Shiruko hot and enjoy. 

Optional extras;

Add sultanas to the cooking beans for extra sweetnes and a soft chewy texture.

Pour in a little coconut milk to the cooked Porridge for an added richness.

If you can find it (and the fruit has become more widely available in the last year) a splash of Yuzu gives a sharp, fragrant, flavour to this Porridge. My favourite topping is a teaspoon of Yuzu marmalade.

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Japan, GDPR and new recipes….

 

Sorry that blog has been very quiet for a while, I’ve been away on my travels. I took a month in Japan to marvel at the season of Sakura, the beautiful cherry blossoms, and much more that I will write about in future posts. Anyway this is just a quick post to say thank you for sticking with me.

This week I sent out an e-mail to all blog subscribers checking that you still want to receive my blog post updates vie e-mail. This was in accordance with the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). So a double thank you to everyone who has stayed on the mailing list. If at anytime you want to opt out please use the unsubscribe button on my website. 

I’ve brought back to Britain lots of new recipes and Porridge ideas that I will be writing up as recipes over the next few weeks. In the meantime if you’ve been wondering, and lots of people have been asking on Twitter, what the new topping is that I’ve been using on my oats, its called Amazake and it’s one of my new Japanese influences. Made from the fermentation of grains, Amazake is traditionally used to make a warming winter drink. However Oat Amazake makes a delicious Porridge topping and its my new favourite  ingredient. Better still its available in the UK

 

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Kakeibo, the art of Porridge and saving money

The start of a New Year is the time when we think about money. After an expensive Christmas we like to look forward to a summer holiday, but wondering how to pay for it tends to focus the mind to our finances. Saving money seems a chore, the snow outside makes me feel like internet shopping for jumpers, warm boots and gallons of hot choclate, so the idea of scrimping and saving is hard. 

It’s the thought of saving; scrimping and sacrificing, that makes us fail, according to the experts. Instead we should be thinking about spending wisely or ‘spending well to save well’. This is the mantra of ‘Kakeibo’, the Japanese art of being wise with your money through the practice of keeping a financial journal. The practice has hit the headlines this year thanks to the release of the book ‘The Japanese Art of Saving Money‘. The book is a good read, scooping up ideas and everyday practices from a nation famed for its stylish simplicity. 

I’d like to think that I’m good with finances but I’m human, so whether its posh Porridge at Claridges or sipping the finest Japanese teas, I like to splash out. So I have warmly embraced the daily practice of Kakeibo to budget for the good things in life. When it comes to Porridge, and with me it always comes back to Porridge 😀 I have a few practices that help me save money on breakfast and I’d like to share them with you. So if you’d rather be a fat cat than hungry as the poor church mouse, read on….

1. Always eat breakfast

You might think that skipping a meal saves you money but think again. Racing out the door on an empty stomach will have you reaching for sugary snacks by mid-morning that are not only unhealthy, but expensive. 

2. Make your own

Porridge pots and single serving sachets are really handy, and great to keep in your work draw for emergencies, but priced gram for gram are really expensive. For example at one on-line supermarket you can buy plain oats at 10.9p per 100g whereas a Porridge pot can cost up to a staggering £3.32!!! for the same weight.

3. Buy in bulk

Which brings me on to point three; the more you buy, the cheaper the oats will be. I buy in bulk to save money from; special offers at the supermarket to sacks of jumbo oats from Mornflake, and big bags of oatmeal from Hamlyns. You can even find special offers at places like Poundshop that recently had boxes of organic oats for their standard £1. And don’t forget independent retailers, who often have offers for buying in bulk. 

4. Travel pots

Whilst Porridge pots cost £££ a travel pot will save you a lot. I bought my Porridge pot several years ago and have never looked back. I use mine two ways; at the weekend I cook up extra Porridge, pop it in the pot, place it in the fridge and then give a quick warm through in the microwave on a Monday morning. Or you can use the pot to cook Porridge from scratch at home to travel with, or in the microwave at work. With a good secure lid its easy to travel with or stops any lava like Porridge over flows in the works microwave.

Another tip these types of plastic pots are often on special offer so have a little look round on the internet. 

5. Cost effective way to five a day

Buying oats in bulk is a good idea, buy bags of pears, bananas or any soft fruits isn’t because they just don’t keep. One way to make sure you don’t waste money is by not wasting food and the best way to use up squishing fruit it to pop it on your Porridge. Here are my three favourite ways to use up overripe fruits;

Cook really ripe bananas into oats for a sweet Porridge,

Slice juicy soft pears straight on to cooking oats and add a few toasted hazelnuts,

Pulp soft fruits to make a perfect purée for Porridge. 

I hope these tips help fund your summer holiday, to somewhere warm and relaxing. After all this snow, your going to need it!

 

 

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Two new, for Porridge

At the start of 2018 my inbox was popping with promotions for new Porridge products. From January diets to tightening the purse strings, the start of a New Year always brings new products and new people to Porridge. 

I’m quiet traditional when it comes to Porridge making but I do like to experiment with toppings. When an e-mail arrived from on-line store ‘Healthy Supplies‘ I was interested to find out more about the amazing array of nuts, seeds and superfoods stocked. After chats with Tina Manahai-Mahai, MD of the Sussex based web-superstore, I thought it would be interesting to try out; tiger nuts, dried white mulberries and dried persimmon slices.

This amazing array keep me going for several days with recipes including; tiger nuts with persimmon and freshly ground nutmeg, mulberries to go! (the berries simply stirred into quick cook oats, they add a nice bit of sweetness, and popped in my travel Porridge pot for breakfast on the go) and my favourite….

Jumbo oats cooked in lots of full cream milk and vanilla, topped with mulberries and ground cacao nibs. Hearty and warming for these dreary wet winter mornings.  

Whilst I am a meat eater and a dairy drinker, I, like a growing number of people, I have been reducing the amount of animal products I consume. That’s why in Veganuary I was pleased to hear from Rebel Mylk who kindly offered some of their Mylk’s to try in my Porridge recipes. 

Rebel Mylk have a whole range of dairy free products but for my Porridge I tried the coconut take on the traditional full, semi and semi-skimmed milks/mylks.  In all honesty I wasn’t keen on the skimmed, too watery but then I don’t like skimmed milk. However the full make a delicious Porridge with my favourite recipe being….

The creaminess of the mylk works well with rich spices such as ginger and freshly ground nutmeg. 

I have tried lots of dairy alternatives for Porridge and I would definitely say that Rebel Kitchen’s whole mylk, along with Oatly original, are two of the best I’ve used, and will continue to use. One last tip, whole Rebel Kitchen Mylk makes fantastic hot chocolate!

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January, the month for marmalade

Christmas maybe over, and the bills need to be paid, but there is something to look forward to; marmalade! On a grey January Sunday afternoon I enjoy being in the kitchen with the brilliantly bright oranges from Seville, bringing a warm aroma to these dark, damp days, making marmalade. 

If you think that marmalade is just for toast or best left for Paddington’s sandwiches, then I’ve written this blog post to make you think again. The rich orange flavour, the tart taste of the rind, make it the perfect preserve for Porridge. I’ve written before about my favourite marmalade’s for adding to Porridge so this time I’m going a step further by writing a recipe to combine oats and delicious marmalade….

Marmalade Flapjacks 

This simple recipe can be made with either homemade or bought marmalade, either will be delicious. I don’t add extra sugar when making these flapjacks so the final sweetness will come down to your marmalade choice. I like making mine with deep, rich and bitter marmalade, which isn’t to everyone’s taste, so if you prefer a sweeter flavour opt for light marmalade or perhaps a multi-fruit marmalade

Ingredients

100g Butter

400g Quick cook oats (chopped rolled oats)

75g Desiccated coconut

250g Marmalade

Method 

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180c.
  • Place the butter in a saucepan and warm over a low heat.
  • Put the oats in a mixing bowl and stir in the warmed butter, mixing well.
  • Then stir through the desiccated coconut.
  • Finally add the marmalade and combine all the ingredients thoroughly. 
  • Grease a large loaf tin or baking dish with butter.
  • Spoon the mixture in evenly and smooth down with a spatula.
  • Put the tray into the hot oven and cook for 10 mins.
  • After 10 mins check the flapjacks, turning the tray if necessary.
  • Then cover the flapjacks with foil. Reduce the heat to 150c and cook for a further 10-12 mins, until they feel firm.
  • Carefully take the tray out of the oven and allow to cool for 15 mins.
  • Then take a sharp knife and score into slices. I usually get 10-12 generous flapjacks from this quantity. 
  • Leave to completely cool in the tray before serving or storing. 
  • I store the half flapjacks in an airtight box for up to three days and freeze the rest. 

I hope you enjoy this recipe. If you a real marmalade aficionado perhaps you would like to visit, or even enter your homemade marmalade, at the World Marmalade Awards, held at Dalemain every spring.   

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Porridge News 2018, a Happy Oaty New Year!

Happy New Year! I’m welcoming in 2018 with lots of Porridge news to share. From new Porridge products to new inventions, the ultimate in oaty luxury and something to encourage you to get on your bike! I’ve got it all, so whether you are detoxing or re-toxing, read on.

2017 saw lots of new brands and Porridge products enter the market. The biggest boom was in the trend for portable Porridge, in the shape of Porridge pots. However my prediction for 2018 is home cooked oats; we are going to fall back in love with our saucepans, save money and stop throwing away plastic pots. 

On my Porridge radar for 2018 is new brand Freestones who have been filling up my Twitter stream with happy motto’s and funny photos.  Freestones have created two new Porridge products; No3 a fruity mix Porridge and No4 a multigrain blend. The company were kind enough to send me a box of No4 that contains both oats and barley, a fav combo of mine, so I was happy to get my Porridge pot cooking to see in the New Year.

If you’re not ready to give up the Christmas chocolates just yet then I can warmly recommend trying Rococo’s Porridge and raspberry jam chocolates. Originally created as part of the limited edition ‘Round the UK selection box‘ and now available as individual chocolates, this harmonious blend of oats and chocolate was hands down my favourite Christmas present of 2017. 

So if you’re in the mood for a re-tox rather than a detox, tuck in! 

If you’ve had enough of Christmas, and decided its time to get on your bike, then get some motivation with a Howies Porridge t. I’ve reviewed the t-shirt before but this time its back with pink (and orange) a vengeance. 

The excellent image comes courtesy of designer Anthony Oram and has popped up in a few guises at Howies as t’s, sweatshirts, and at Christmas as a goodie bag. The design is so loved that I’ve been told by Howies that it’s their biggest selling t shirt. So join team Porridge and get peddling. 

Porridge could be going sonic in 2018 thanks to honey makers Rowse. The company are currently trialing ‘GoBrek’ a device that could cook your Porridge during the morning commute. The company have been a bit quiet on details but the press have picked up on the Porridge sonic screw driver claiming that even Goldilocks would approve of this ‘wacky gadget’ !?!

That’s all the Porridge news for now but I’ll keep you posted throughout 2018. 

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5 of the best Christmas presents for Porridge fans

Spurtle Package

If you’ve managed to survive the cyber sales but are still stuck on what to buy for the Porridge lover in your life, let me help you. From a present for the traditionalist Porridge maker to gifts for the Porridge newcomer, I’ve got it covered in my top five Porridge presents for 2017. 

1. The Spurtle

This is the present for the Porridge traditionalist in your life as a Spurtle will help them make the perfect bowl of time-honored oatmeal, with just a pinch of salt. A Spurtle is a traditional wooden stirrer for Porridge making, that due to its shape, stops lumps from forming in the cooking oats. You can read more about the customs and traditions of the Spurtle here but I would say that no serious Porridge maker can be without one! 

Spurtles can be found in good cookware shops and on-line stores from; high street chain John Lewis to Scottish retailer Cranachan and Crowdie. For international stores and woodturners have a look here. 

Porridge Mug 3

2. The Microwaveable Mug

This gift is for the Porridge newcomer in your life to help them perfect Porridge making. This nifty Porridge mug from the cookware store Lakeland not only looks pretty but is practical too as it is labeled up with instructions. You can read more about the mug here but safe to say this well designed mug will help oat novices stick to their New Year’s healthy breakfast eating habit well into 2018.

Travel Porridge Pot

3 Travel Porridge Pot

Still on the theme of encouraging the healthy breakfast habit, present number 3 is perfect for commuters. The travel pot comes in a couple of guises from the wide neck thermos to the plastic travel Porridge pot. Both have their benefits; the former comes with a foldable spoon, with the latter you can cook your Porridge in it and go.

I bought my vibrant pink pot a couple of years ago and I’ve never looked back. Easy to use and wash, leak proof, and most importantly it saves me money by bringing my own breakfast. 

Ridgeline Bowls5

4 A Beautiful Bowl

When there’s time, Saturday breakfast or a lazy Sunday brunch, there’s nothing quiet like serving up slow cooked creamy Porridge in a beautiful bowl. A couple of years ago I was given the gift of a beautiful handmade bowl that I love to use on Sunday morning’s, when I enjoy a big bowl of traditional Scottish coarse oatmeal. I love my present and I think the Porridge lover in your life will too.

From Emma Bridgewater to Burleigh there are some fantastic potteries in Britain. Etsy also has a great range or better still seek out a pottery local to you.  

Hamlyns oats

5. Oats

If all else fails buy oats! From a value sack of supermarket oats to special Scottish milled oatmeal there is something to suit every taste and every budget.

For the traditionalist try Hamlyn’s tins of Pinhead Oatmeal 

Try Porridge, as a bar, with Stoats new subscription service that includes exciting limited edition flavours  

 For the commuter try Speedicook oats from Whites 

For something completely different! How about sprouted oats from Rude Health to kick a New Year superfood detox off!

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