Full steam ahead for the Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championships

Bain Marie Steam 2I’ve been a bit distracted of late with travels and the search for Britain’s best Porridge breakfast but my oaty focus came back this week when I received a very important e-mail…. <drum roll> announcing that I have officially been accepted as a competitor for the 2015 Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championships

Then as if by magic, or at least good fortune 😀 I received a delivery of Mornflake’s new gluten free pinhead oatmeal. Since then my bain marie has been on full steam and so has my kitchen!

Bain Marie Steam 1For the Golden Spurtle I am developing two recipes; traditional oatmeal, using gluten free pinhead oatmeal, sea salt, water, and my speciality which is still top secret! 😉

I have been enjoying working with the new gluten free oatmeal, and enjoying plenty of pinhead Porridge breakfasts too. I really love the nutty-ness of the very coarse grain and have found it to be really versatile in savoury dishes, being a good replacement for rice and a nice alternative to grains like bulgar wheat and quinoa.

Bain Marie Steam 3This dinner-time savoury twist on Porridge should give you a clue about my speciality recipe! However if you want to find out what ‘free-style’ Porridge I will be making for the big day at the Golden Spurtle you will have to keep ’em peeled on my blog! :-)

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On my travels, on the search, for Britain’s Best Breakfast

Marmalade PorridgeLast week I posted on my eternal quest for perfect Porridge whilst on my travels. Since then I’ve been away to Scotland’s ‘Granite City‘ Aberdeen. For a stay in Scotland my Porridge options were pretty limited, with the best breakfast option being a classic Scottish offering of marmalade Porridge. Not fancy but filling and it saw me through my long working day.

So the question still remains which hotel or B&b do you think serves Britain’s best Porridge breakfast? I’ve had recommendations coming thick and fast on social media, including;

Sand Dollar Cafe, Aberdeen

MacDonald Hotels, where Porridge is served with double cream!

And lots of people recommending Pret’s ‘Proper Porridge’ as a grab and go breakfast option.

What do you think? I still want to hear from you because the quest for Britain’s best Porridge breakfast is still on!

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Travelling Porridge

Sweeheart Porridge blogAn age ago I reviewed Britain’s best breakfast for The Independent newspaper. At that time Hendersons of Edinburgh was my favourite breakfast spot, somewhere that I always enjoyed going for my breakfast when in Edinburgh on business. I’ve been back on the travelling for work trail again recently, but sadly work hasn’t taken me to Scotland’s capital for a very long time. Instead I’ve been staying in lots of chain hotels, being served with lots of microwaved Porridge dressed up to be something else. The worst example to date has been a rather swanky Liverpool hotel that served me watery Porridge in what can only be described as a flying saucer of a bowl!

Liverpool Hotel PorridgeHowever I’m not down on the chains as my recent stay in a MacDonald hotel showed me how hotels can get it right; by serving properly cooked oatmeal, served in a sweet single serving, lidded ramekin, which kept the Porridge piping hot. Is this because they are a Scottish chain?

Now you might think I’m being a bit snippy, that breakfast doesn’t really matter, but with long days and long travel delays the only thing that keeps me going when I am away on business, is breakfast. A good Porridge breakfast of course 😉 So once again I’m back on the search for Britain’s best Porridge breakfast and I’d love to know your thoughts. Do you have a favourite hotel that serves a great breakfast that you can recommend? Do you know a guest house or B&B that serves perfect Porridge? Please share your best breakfasts with me here on the blog by leaving a comment below.

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Porridge Lady Hiccups!

porridgeLadyHeaderImage.pngOk so it’s not actually me that’s hiccuping, although I am known for my ‘annoying hiccuping bouts’, it’s actually porridgelady.co.uk that’s been having a bit of a ‘moment’. Over the last few weeks I have been upgrading my site with the inevitable wordpress problems that come from installing a new version.

Maintaining a website is the bane of every bloggers life, we love writing recipes, taking and making high quality images and of course writing, but the I.T. side of what we do can be a real pain. Now normally I see the ‘techy’ stuff as a necessary eve-il. However I was upset over the weekend when I lost all of the comments that people had kindly left on posts. I’ve been blogging for several years now which means I’ve lost A LOT of comments.

Old and new, the comments have vanished. Whilst I rope in my web developer friend to delve into the magicians hat of the internet and try and pull the comments out of the black hole! I have to say sorry to everyone who has taken the time to write on my website. I hope the comments can be retrieved, until then please leave me some more and I promise I will respond! :-)

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My ‘Little Food Finds': York Cocoa House

York Cocoa House2 croppedLast summer I visited York for ‘Le Grand Depart’ of the Tour de France. I had a lovely time soaking up the cities culture and idling around in cafés. When I came back from my city break I was bursting to blog about a ‘cocoa house’ where I had enjoyed the best hot chocolate that I have ever drunk. Sadly work picked up and I had to put my blog down. However work isn’t such a bad thing as recently I found myself back in York thanks to it, and now finally I’ve written my ‘Little Food Find’ from York….

I am a big fan of hot chocolate but find that very few café’s do it well. I’ve been disappointed by some of the most expensive and more renowned cafe’s offerings of hot chocolate, which are little more than warm milk added to drinking chocolate powder. I was beginning to give up the notion of ever drinking a good hot chocolate made from chocolate when I came across ‘York Cocoa House‘.

Located in the city center, just round the corner from the Minster, York Cocoa House is a favourite stop for tourists and regulars alike. In fact the Cocoa House is a bit of a destination for all things chocolate and includes; a chocolate school, where you can take a chocolate master-class, a chocolate shop, selling Cocoa House made truffles and Artisan bars of chocolate, and of course the chocolate cafe.

York Cocoa House shelfThe café is beautifully nostalgic, harking back to York’s heyday as the ‘chocolate city‘. Tastefully filled with memorabilia, the Cocoa House is a living museum of chocolate; remembering the cities great factories of Terry’s and Rowntree’s chocolate, but also breathing life back into the cities chocolate commerce through the vibrant café and school.

Once seated I got on with the important business of choosing my chocolate. The Cocoa House has an impressive, but not unwieldy, selection of drinks that include single origin hot chocolates fit for connoisseurs through to very palatable drinks like chocolate orange (can’t imagine where they got that idea from :-D). I opted for one of the house specials ‘Spanish Hot Chocolate’ which was described as “thick, bitter chocolate”

York Cocoa House Chocolate_What arrived, is what I can only describe as a chocolate pudding in a cup. I mean that in a good way. The Cocoa House ‘Spanish Hot Chocolate’ is every bit like the choc that I loved dipping my churros into, into the small hours in a Barcelona bar.  Authentic, delicious and very, very filling. My co-chocolate drinker opted for the single origin “Tumaco-65% cocoa solids (dark cherry)” which, in a nice touch, is served with a small piece of the chocolate for you to taste. This drink was a true connoisseurs hot chocolate, much appreciated and enjoyed by my companion.

Alongside the impressive hot chocolate menu the Cocoa House also serves chocolate based cakes, pastries and even a chocolate afternoon tea. However after my meal in a hot chocolate cup, there wasn’t room even for the accompanying truffle which I dutifully took with me to enjoy on the train journey home.

York Cocoa House1Was I impressed by York’s Cocoa House? Yes! Has my faith in hot chocolate been restored? Most definitely. Would I recommend it to you? In a heart beat…..

York Cocoa House

3 Blake Street

York

YO1 8QJ

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Porridge Lady’s entry is in for the 2015 Golden Spurtle World Porridge Championships

Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making CompetitionI am very excited to share the news that I have now put myself forward as an entrant for the 2015 Golden Spurtle World Porridge Championships. Over the last few days I’ve been making plans and last night it all came together when I finally and formally submitted my entry. Now I sit back with my fingers crossed waiting to find out if my applications has been successful.

I am very pleased to be sponsored again in 2015 by Mornflake, Britain’s oldest oat milling company, that’s still family owned and run! I am also very excited to be using their new and fantastic gluten free pinhead oatmeal in my quest for Golden Spurtle glory!

Mornflake Gluten Free oatssml_blogI will be posting updates here on my blog as I practice, practice and practice some more to get my Porridge just right for the Golden Spurtle Judges.

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My ‘Little Food Finds'; Teacup Kitchen

Teacup Tea 2To say that Manchester’s ‘Teacup Kitchen’ is one of my ‘Little Food Finds’ would be like saying I discovered tea. From a quick look at Tecups blog it’s clear that the venue is a big hit with Northern bloggers. However being a sullen Southerner (I’ll explain that later) I decided that it was time to get the word on Teacup out to the Southern tea drinking fraternity. So here goes…

I arrived at Teacup Kitchen on springs hottest day so far, dressed for winter. I’d just fallen out of an overheated train, trudged around Manchaeter’s Northern quarter carrying my winter coat, and feeling completely parched I fell into Teacup as the proverbial ‘Sullen Southerner’. However when greeted with a wall of warm Mancunian charm, hospitality, and an extensive tea menu I quickly regained my cheer.

A little bit bistro, a little bit cafè, Teacup has interesting food offerings from sandwich staples like ham and cheese to posh pies with fillings such as ‘Duck, Goose or Game’. For me though it was all about the tea and I was instantly impressed with the selection, ranging from; Popular, Premium, Rare and Beyond Rare! With prices to match accordingly. I chose the Beijing Breakfast which promised; 

“A sweet, malty, single estate black tea from the
famous Taoist mountain, Laoshan in Shangdong
Province. Produced using natural bio-farming
methods on a tiny 14-acre estate, Mr Mou’s
exquisite black tea is unique and hard to come by.
With a caramel oat-like sweetness, it’s best taken
without milk”.

Teacup Tea 3 The tea arrived in a glass ‘Tea-iere‘ with an accompanying timer and glass jug. This allowed me to brew the tea for a precise 4 minutes and then transfer to the jug. The tea was malty, rich and surprisingly red as you can see from the picture. It was delicious, the first infusion full bodied, the second and third more delicate but this allowed the sweetness to come though. However by the forth infusion it was like drinking twigs, so I called it a day.  

The service at Teacup was excellent, a sort of manic attentiveness that meant the tea, and the subsequent tops up, came thick and fast, but manic with Manc cheeriness. Teacup offers several afternoon tea options from a full afternoon tea (which spying follow tea drinkers came on a three tier stand and seemed to beat even the heartiest of diners) and classic scones to more Manchester themed options like the ‘Rainbow Cake’. If (hopefully when) I go back I will be trying the ‘Cream Tea with Magnificent Madeleines’ served hot from the oven with Chantilly cream, the thought of which is making my mouth water.

 Teacup Kitchen

55 Thomas Street

Manchester, M4 1NA

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Why soils matter in the general election

SA IYS logoOf all the subjects that politicians are debating in the run-up to May’s general election, Soil might not be the hottest topic. However in my new post for the Soil Association blog I’m arguing that it should be.

How are soils are managed, the way our food is produced, and ecosystem protection are political issues and ‘Sustainable Intensification’ is the politicians answer. Is it achievable? Read my blog post to find out more…

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Date announced for the 22nd annual Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Champsionships

Golden Spurtle LogoStop press! The date has been announced for the 2015 Golden Spurtle competition, could you be the next World Porridge Making Champion?

The 22nd annual World Porridge Making Championships takes place in the Scottish Highland village of Carrbridge in Cairngorms National Park on Saturday 10th October 2015.The event draws competitors from around the globe to compete for the coveted Golden Spurtle trophy and title of “World Porridge Making Champion.” It also celebrates the diversity of porridge through a speciality section.

I will be blogging with all the details as they are released, in the meantime if you want to be in with a chance of competing this year you can contact the event organiser here.

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My top 5 tearooms to visit in 2015

Teanamu 8 teapot2014 was a really good year for tea, well drinking it anyway. During the year I visited some tearooms that had been been on my ‘to visit’ list for a very long time and discovered new places too. From all my travels, pots of tea drunk and cakes consumed, I have compiled my 5 favourite places to take tea from 2014.

Each recommendation is really different, chosen on the quality of tea served, the atmosphere of the tea room or the sheer fun of visiting. Whatever your preference, budget or location I hope that you will give at least one of these 5 places a visit in 2015.

1) Chinese tea ceremony at: Teanamu, Chaya Teahouse, Notting Hill, London

Teanamu Anna 4The Chaya Teahouse had been on my list of tea rooms to visit for at least 2 years. Only open during the summer season, and then only on Saturdays and Sundays, means booking is essential and even then a reservation is hard to come by.

The focus of the afternoon is providing a Chinese Gong Fu Cha afternoon tea that encompasses handmade patisserie, delicate Chinese dim sum and fine Chinese and Japanese teas. There are two set menus and I opted for the slightly more expensive, but wholly worthwhile ‘ichi-go ichi-e afternoon tea’. 

Delicate is how I would sum up the Chaya afternoon tea. No builders brew and starchy sandwiches here, instead fragrant teas are served; focussing on oolongs, green teas and prized infusions such as Pu Erh. These are accompanied by bite sized and beautiful savoury and sweet snacks, my favourite being the accompanying rose petal jam.

Best for: Learning about tea and tea making techniques. I came away having learned many facets of tea that have refined my own tea making. 

Top tip: Check the directions to the teahouse carefully. Chaya is held in a residential house so it’s easy to walk straight past and end up horribly lost. I speak from experience!

2) Tea tasting at: Postcard Teas,  New Bond Street, London

Postcard Teas2My first visit to Postcard Teas came at the end of my quest for 2014 First Flush Darjeeling tea. You can read a full review of my visit here but I wanted to recommend Postcard again as I still maintain that it’s the best venue in central London for a truly refreshing proper cup of tea.

Best for: A simple cup of loose leaf tea brewed to perfection.

Top tip: Try before you buy. If you are seeking a specific tea, or want to widen your repertoire, visit Postcard to try infusions before you commit to buying. 

3) A classic country afternoon tea at: Catherines Cafe, Wallingford, Oxfordshire

Yellow Cafe1Sometimes you take a walk to build up an appetite, sometimes you need a walk to work off an afternoon tea. My visit to Catherine’s Cafe definitely fell into the latter category! Situated in the pretty Oxfordshire town of Wallingford, Catherine’s Cafe is a comfy combination of homely cooking and afternoon teas. Close to the Ridgeway Trail and the Thames Path, the cafe is a great stop off to rest and replenish.

I visited the cafe in late summer to enjoy the full set afternoon tea. The tea starts with sandwiches and scones then continues with a choice of freshly baked cake. To be honest I was so stuffed after the first two courses that I took my lovely slice of cake away with me, that’s how generous this tea is! At £12 per head (as of 2014) this tea is a steal however leave your ‘airs and graces’ at home as Catherine’s tea offerings are traditional bagged builders brew and Earl Grey, no Oloongs here.

Best for: A comfy country afternoon tea.

Top tip: The full afternoon tea is not available on Saturdays. It’s normally very busy, and hectic with families (and noisy children!) on Saturdays anyway. So book in for a calm and leisurely Sunday tea instead.

4) Grand tea tradition at: Betty’s Cafe and Tearooms, York

Betty's BikeAlthough I’d had several fleeting visits to Betty’s I’d never had the experience of afternoon tea in the grand setting of Betty’s formal tea rooms. However that all changed in July when I was in York for the Grand Depart of the Tour de France. Disappointingly I was unable to book in prior to my visit, as bookings had been suspended due to the Le Tour, in what I can only assume was a hope to get more tourists through the door.

Being met with a long queue wasn’t a great start but once seated that all changed. Panelled walls and waitresses in frilly pinnies all adds to the charm of Betty’s. The draw of Betty’s for me is the perfect combination of high calibre loose leaf teas and patisserie, normally you get only one or the other. I opted for the single estate Rwandan Gisovu tea and to celebrate Le Tour; the classic ‘Paris Brest’ patisserie. Lovely.  

Best for: A grand afternoon tea.

Top tip: Wait staff are keen on pushing extras that soon mount up on the bill. Choose carefully from the menu and stick to your original order.

5) and for something completely different: Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, Bethnal Green, London

Biscuitsml_Tea + cats, who could ask for more? Certainly not this crazy cat lady! Yes the final tearoom I’m recommending from 2014 is London’s  Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium.

Back in the scorching summer of 2014 Lady Dinah’s was defiantly the hot ticket to have. As London’s first cat cafe, crazy cat ladies (and men!) and cool kids alike, flocked to the capitals most hyped new venue. But do cats and tea make purrrfect afternoon? 

After making my booking I did wonder about the calibre of afternoon tea at Lady D’s. Would the emporium be all hype, cats, but not great tea? Well aside from the fun of the cats I’m recommending Lady Dinah’s because the tea menu and the food options are great.  I sampled several loose leaf teas all of which were excellent. For food I opted for Brick Lane baked bagels and a over-generous slice of red velvet cake. Both very fresh and delicious.

Best for: Crazy cat ladies and gentlemen. 

Top tip: You have to book well in advance, normally a month ahead, more if you want a prime weekend slot. However it’s little know that tables for 1 are really easy to come by, often available same day. Don’t be put off by tea for one as you are never alone with a cafe full of cats! :-)

Just a little napsml

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