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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Simple Porridge Recipes; Raisin & Nutmeg Porridge

Nutmeg 2

Week four and it’s the finale to my ‘Simple Porridge Recipes’ series. This recipe is a real favourite of mine. When I need to be up and out really early, I make it. When I’m out of fresh fruit I find it really handy, and when it’s cold outside the aroma and warmth of the nutmeg makes my morning.

Whilst it is important to eat a variety of fresh fruit and veg too, dried fruit is really handy and still counts as one portion towards your ‘5-a-day’. High in iron, vitamin B and calcium raisins are a little nutrition packed pods of natural sweetness.  So healthy and handy, enjoy this simple Porridge recipe.

Simple Porridge Recipes; Raisin and nutmeg Porridge

Raisin & Nutmeg PorridgeServes: One

Cooking and preparation time: 5 mins

Ingredients

3/4 mug quick cook oats

1 cup cold water

1/2 cup semi-skimmed milk

Tablespoon of raisins

Whole nutmeg to grate or 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg to sprinkle

Optional toppings: Currants or sultanas if you prefer them to raisins.

Method

Place the oats, water and milk into a deep cereal bowl and stir thoroughly.

Put the bowl into a microwave and cook on full power for 2 mins.

Open the door and stir the Porridge, then cook for a further 2 mins.

Remove the cooked Porridge from the microwave and sprinkle with the raisins and grate the nutmeg.

Serve hot and enjoy Porridge the simple way!

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Simple Porridge Recipes; Cheery Chia Seed & Pineapple Porridge

PineappleNothing bolsters my early start like a bowl of cheery chia seed and pineapple Porridge. I love the flavour of pineapple on Porridge and I like the vitamin C zing I get from it too. I think that pineapple is the perfect partner to Porridge, giving a sweet lift to a healthy breakfast.

If you’ve never used chia seeds before let me tell you a little bit about 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: Chia 2

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

So this Porridge is packed with goodness but still fast and simple to make.

 

Cheery Chia Seed & Pineapple Porridge

Cheery Chia & Pineapple Porridge sml2Serves: One

Cooking & preparation time: 5 mins

Ingredients

3/4 cup quick cook oats

1 cup of cold water

1/2 cup of milk

2 pineapple rings or a generous serving of pineapple pieces

2 teaspoons of chia seeds

Optional toppings: Ground almonds or dessicated coconut in place of the chia seeds.

Method

Place the oats, water and milk in a deep bowl and stir thoroughly.

Put the bowl into a microwave and cook on full power for 2 mins.

Open the door and stir the Porridge, then cook for a further 2 mins.

Remove the cooked Porridge from the microwave and add the pineapple and some juice too.

Finally sprinkle the chia seeds over the bowl and enjoy Porridge the simple way.

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Are you sowing your oats this Valentines Day?

Heart 2I have to admit that I giggled, slightly embarrassed, when an e-mail hit my in-box from Stoats, the Scottish Porridge company. Why was I pink cheeked? Well according to Tony Stone, one of Stoats’ founders, oats increase your libido;

“Oats have always been known for their rich source of energy but they also contain an extract that according to research actually helps stir up the libido and can increase testosterone production in the body”.

To keep this, erm, ‘energy’ up, Stoats recommend topping your bowl of steaming hot porridge with some fresh fruit to give that extra energy boost:

  • Apple topping – apples, like wine and chocolate, contain antioxidants that can stimulate blood flow
  • Banana topping – banana’s are high in B vitamins and potassium ideal for increasing the hormone levels
  • Strawberry topping – contain vitamin C, potassium, folic acid and some iron and fibre – which are all vital vitamins to keep energy levels up!

Stoats PorridgeNow I know all about the heart health benefits of oats and oatbran, which come from the substance Beta Glucan; a natural source of soluble fibre which has been shown to lower blood cholesterol. However the Valentine benefits of oats was defiantly news to me! A quick (and slightly scary) trawl on the internet revealed the long and illustrious love career of oats from; being ranked as a top love life food, to being cited as a ‘surprisingly sexy food’. And surprised I was <cough>.

So put aside the oysters, buy a box of oats instead of chocolates, and get ready for Valentines! And if you need a little bit of adult oaty inspiration, try my Mornflake recipe for ‘Dark Side Porridge’

Dark Side Porridge Recipe

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Simple Porridge Recipes; Banana and Peanut Butter Porridge

Savoury banana egg Porridge recipeWow don’t Monday’s roll around quickly! To get you ready for Monday morning I’m posting the second recipe, in my series of ‘Simple Porridge Recipes’, to give you a good start to the new working week.

This recipe is a great way to use up over-ripe bananas. Instead of the classic Porridge topping of sliced bananas, this recipe cooks the bananas into the Porridge, to give the oats a really banana-ry  flavour. So the browner the bananas the better!  I also swirl the peanut butter into the Porridge to spread the flavour though the bowl. So bring on Monday morning!

Simple Porridge Recipes; Banana and Peanut Butter Porridge

Banana & nut butter PorridgesmlServes: One

Cooking and preparation time: 5 mins

Ingredients

1 small over-ripe Fair Trade banana

3/4 mug quick cook oats

1 cup cold water

1/2 cup semi-skimmed milk

1 teaspoon peanut butter

Optional toppings: Pecan or cashew nut butter, chia seeds,

Method

Mash the banana with a fork into a deep cereal bowl.

Add the oats, water and milk and stir thoroughly.

Put the bowl into a microwave and cook on full power for 2 mins.

Open the door and stir the Porridge, then cook for a further 2 mins.

Remove the cooked Porridge from the microwave and swirl the nut butter through the bowl.

Enjoy Porridge the simple way!

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The Spurtle Times

Spurtle Packagingii 2Last week an unexpected parcel arrived from Canada. Unfortunately the customs label gave away the contents, however the gift was truly a lovely surprise.

Spurtle PackageThe parcel contained a beautiful hand-turned Porridge Spurtle from Derek Andrews and his ‘Seafoam Woodturning Stuido’. For sometime now Derek and I have exchanged tweets on the subject of Spurtles and oats, mostly around the myths and legends surrounding Porridge. When Derek explained that he had written up these customs and Spurtle tales into a pamphlet, I was interested!

‘The Spurtle Times’ is the title of Derek’s informative leaflet covering usage and traditions of the Spurtle and tales like;

The Porridge “Spurtle” was twelve feet long; and the end of it was inserted in a hole made in a plank across the joisting, and a stout person below kept stirring, while the oatmeal was gradually scattered on the boiling surface. It tired two or three before the process was completed”.

I have read widely on Porridge customs and written on the history of Spurtle myself, however I was enthralled and entertained by ‘The Spurtle Times’ and learnt lots of new facts too!  A copy of ‘Spurtle Times’ accompanies every purchase of Derek’s Spurtles so I can highly recommend getting on-line, buying yourself a beautiful Spurtle and learning more.

Derek’s Spurtles can be purchased on-line here and you can follow him on Twitter too for daily Porridge facts.

Seafoam Spurtle sml

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Simple Porridge Recipes; Grape Porridge

Grape Porridge 1I love writing Porridge recipes from festive favs to momentous multi-grain breakfasts. However sometimes it feels like this can get all too much, normally around 6am on a Monday morning when I’m struggling to open my eyes, let alone packs and packs of ingredients! Sometimes you just want something simple for breakfast, a tried and tested Porridge recipe that tastes good but is so straight forward that you can make it with your eyes closed (handy at 6am ;-) )

With this in mind I have decided to write a blog post series called ‘Simple Porridge Recipes’. These are my personal favourite recipes, the Porridge toppings and simple ideas that I call on when I’m in a hurry to leave the house. I’ve decided to kick the series off with a recipe that I’m always been asked to share on Twitter. It’s one of my fail-safe sweet and simple recipes that is just as easy as it sounds….

Simple Porridge Recipes; Grape Porridge

Grape Porridge 2

Serves: One

Cooking & Preperation time: 5 mins

Ingredients

Generous handful of washed grapes (I prefer to use red grapes)

3/4 mug quick cook oats

1 cup cold water

1/2 cup semi-skimmed milk

Optional toppings: honey, cinnamon

Method

Place the oats, water and milk into a deep bowl and stir thoroughly.

Put the bowl into a microwave and cook on full power for 2 mins.

Open the door and stir the Porridge, then cook for a further minute.

Add the grapes to the bowl and cook for a last minute.

Remove the cooked Porridge from the microwave and drizzle honey over the grapes or sprinkle with cinnamon or just leave plain and enjoy a tasty Porridge the simple way.

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Barley, the new Porridge trend for 2015?

Barley Porridge Wall Street JournalFrom the UK to LA, Scandinavia and beyond has Barley become the new Porridge trend for 2015?

Last year I wrote about the benefits of barley as a grain and how to add it to your Porridge with my recipe for ‘Barley & Oat, Banana and Walnut Porridge’. High in selenium, magnesium, Iron, fiber and a low GI food (even lower than even oats) that has shown to reduce insulin response after eating, its not surprising that chefs are adding barley to breakfast.

From seeing so many recipes I knew that Barley Porridge had become popular but even I was surprised to see it feature in the Wall Street Journal. With such lofty endorsement I’ve decided that it must be a trend!

I made sure that I was ‘on-trend’ ;-) this morning by having a new cherry & berry version of my classic ‘Hobbit-y Porridge’ recipe;

Berry Hobbit-y Porridge

If you want to be a ‘Porridge-trendy’ too (it’s the new hipster ;-) ) here is my Hobbit-y Porridge recipe in full. 

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5 Top Tips For Porridge Newcomers

RC Porridge1 smlWith ‘Porridge Season’ well and truly upon us I have been busy on Twitter answering lots of oaty questions. I find that I am busier than ever in January, as lots of new people take up the Porridge habit. With lots of common question coming up, I decided to write a post based on the most FAQ’s on Twitter. So whether you have come to Porridge for health reasons, to save a bit of money after an expensive Christmas, or you’ve read that Porridge will lead to a long life! This tips are for you….

My Top 5 Tips For Porridge Newcomers

1 Ratio

To make the perfect Porridge you need to get the ratio of oats to fluid right. It doesn’t matter if you use water, milk or a dairy substitute, too much of any fluid will give you a runny Porridge with a gruel consistency. Too little will result in a solid Porridge.

I always use the ratio 2:1 Two parts fluid to one part oats.

2 Quantities

Making too much Porridge is never an issue in my home ;-) but too little definitely is! From cooking a single morning bowl, or breakfasting with friends, to catering for over a hundred hungry cyclists, I always use my ‘Porridge Mug’ to get the correct quantity of oats.

I find that 3/4 of a mug per person is an ample breakfast but 1 mug full of oats is perfect for those with big appetites. If you use the same mug everyday you will quickly learn just how much makes the perfect breakfast for you.

3 Stir, stir and stir some more

It doesn’t matter whether you cook oats in a pan or the microwave the key to lump free Porridge is plenty of stirring. If you are using a microwave take you bowl out of the oven and give it a good stir at least three times during cooking. Also rotate the bowl to ensure an even cook.

4 Store your oats properly

After Christmas we all need to economise a bit and what better way to save money than buying a big bag of oats. Not only is it better value, but also ensures that you won’t run out. However to make the most of your oats and to ensure you always make the perfect Porridge, you must store your oats properly!

5 A stock of Simple recipes

To keep Porridge eating interesting it’s good to have a few simple recipes you can call on. Have a browse through my blog for recipes and why not follow me on Twitter where I share a photo of my breakfast everyday.

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