Chocolate oat mug cake, believe the hype!

Dark, damp, November days, its the most miserable time of the year. I came home the other evening frozen through, sodden, with a knee I could barley move and all I could think about was chocolate cake. Luckily/unluckily I didn’t have any in the house as it’s that time between the fun of Halloween/ fireworks night and Christmas. A hungry gap when I keep my cupboards free of feast foods. 

Desperate for a chocolate fix, without the sugar, I turned to the internet for inspiration. My eye was quickly caught by a trend of recipes for ‘Microwave Mug Cakes’. Simple ingredients, quickly cooked, could this be too good to be true? After reading around and a quick test the answer is…. Microwave Mug Cakes believe the hype!

There are a lot of recipes already out there but there is no point swerving full chocolate cake only to have a mug full of sugar. So I’m hoping this post will help you find something that fills you full of chocolate flavour and oats without sugar, until Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year! Arrives. 

Chocolate Oaty Microwave Mug Cake

Basic Ingredients:

 3 heaped tablespoons of oat flour

Pinch of baking powder

1 heaped tablespoon of xylitol

2  tablespoons of cacao (or sugar-free cocoa powder)

One medium organic or free range egg

1 tablespoon of oat milk

 

Additions:

Natural flavorings such as vanilla extract or orange juice 

Nuts, or nut butter, and seeds

Fruit; slices of fresh fruit, frozen berries or dried fruit pieces. 

 

Makes: One mug cake

Takes: Five mins

Take a big, deep mug, (the bigger the better as this will stop the mixture overflowing when it cooks) and add the flour, baking powder, xylitol and cacao.

Then add any additions. My two favourite ways to make this mug cake are; to add a spoonful of hazelnut butter in the middle of the mix or replace some of the milk with orange juice to get a chocolate orange taste to this dessert. 

Crack the egg into the mug and mix all the ingredients thoroughly.

Place the mug into the microwave and set to cook for 2 mins.

After the first 1 1/2 watch the mug like a hawk as this is when it could overflow.

Once cooked carefully remove from the microwave and leave to rest for a few minutes. The cake will be piping hot so let it cool!

Don’t worry if your cake is wonky, hot spots in my microwave mean my pudding always rises more on one side. This feel good cake has more of a voice for radio than a face for Instagram! 

Get a spoon, take a seat, put your feet up and tuck in.

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Persimmon, the perfect fruit for Autumn Porridge wherever you are enjoying fall

Persimmon’s are a fairly new fruit to me. I only came across the vivid orange autumnal fruit a few years ago during a stay in Frankfurt. Every morning I would walk to the local greengrocers to buy a huge 1 Euro Persimmon for my morning Porridge and head back, only stopping to admire the red squirrels that lived on my road. 

Since that very cold winter I have added Persimmons to my Porridge repertoire from October to January. However Persimmons seem to have followed me around the globe. From California farmers market fruits, that made the best Halloween Persimmon Porridge in Yosemite, to preserved Persimmons that kept me going on Japanese tea farms. 

Whilst Persimmons are popular across the globe they are little known in the UK. Partly price and availability but mostly due to a lack of recipes, Persimmons are a poor cousin to that other autumn favourite the Pomegranate. I hope to do my bit to change that with this recipe, which I hope you will enjoy throughout the coming winter months. 

Multigrain Baked Persimmon Porridge

2 large Persimmons

1 cup of jumbo oats

1 cup of millet flakes

2 cups of milk or almond mylk 

2 cups of water

Pinch of sea or pink Himalayan salt

1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract

2 tablespoons of ground almonds 

A generous handful of Thompson raisins 

Nutmeg to garnish

 

Makes: Two generous portions 

Takes: 30 mins

Method: 

Take two large ripe Persimmons and wash well.

Pre-heat the oven to 160c then put the fruit on a baking tray and place into the hot oven. 

Cook the persimmons for 20 mins, or until soft, being careful not to burn the fruits.

Remove the baking tray from the oven and set aside to allow the fruit to cool.

Then into a large saucepan put the oats, millet, water and milk or mylk and bring to the boil.

Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 3 mins then add the salt and vanilla to the cooking grains, stirring it in thoroughly.

Keep stirring and keep cooking for another 2-3 minutes until the mix becomes a thick Porridge. Then stir in the ground almonds.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside whilst you prepare the Persimmons.

Take the fruit and carefully peel with a knife. Then slice into rounds of about 1 cm thickness.

Pour the Porridge into bowls, garnish with the persimmon slices, a generous grate of nutmeg, a sprinkle of raisins and serve piping hot. 

If you want a bit more on your Porridge you can try these optional extras;

Toasted sunflower seeds – sprinkle some over the Persimmon slices for a nice chewy texture to the soft fruit. Also adds a lovely toasty aroma. 

Chia seeds –  topping with these seeds will add omega 3 and essential minerals

Honey – for those who like things a bit sweeter drizzle a little over the Persimmon slices to really bring out the flavour of the fruit.  

Lucuma powder – a teaspoonful of this powder stirred in to the cooked oats will add a low GI sweetness to your Porridge and minerals such as calcium too. 

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Stop Press! Winner/s!!! of the 2018 World Porridge Competition announced

Hot off the press, the news from the Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championships is a BIG surprise! For the first time in its 25 year history the competition has two winners!

Calle Myrsell and Per Carlsson from Sweden have jointly won the Golden Spurtle traditional category. It is also a two-in-a-row for Sweden who swept the board last year winning both traditional and specialty categories.

The specialty trophy stays in the home nation in 2018 as Chris Young of Perthshire Oatcakes, Scotland, won the freestyle category of the competition with his ‘Oatmeal Tapas Platter’ recipe. 

A big thanks goes to competition sponsors Hamlyns Oats for sending me this photo from the competition. You will be able to get the full news, photos and recipes from the Golden Spurtle website in the coming days. 

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Recipe part two: Steamed Shizuoka strawberry buns; a recipe for making the most of Autumn.

With the passing of the Equinox, Autumn has truly arrived. You may be mourning the end of summer, the heatwave and long days of sun but in this blog post I want to convince you of the benefits of Autumn and share the second part of my Shizuoka Strawberry Bun recipe. 

Whilst it may not be hot, Autumn is a great time to explore the outdoors and enjoy the changing colours of the season. There’s nothing quite like a hike through the fallen crisp leaves on a crisp Autumn morning. It’s also a great time to add in a bit of foraging to your walks; late season berries, apples from wild grown trees and for the knowledgeable, even a mushroom hunt. 

Being outdoors in the cool air builds up the appetite and colder days need hot sustenance. The way I sustain my Autumn outdoors is by using a Kelly Kettle*, a handy camping kettle that rapidly boils water even on the windiest days. 

Porridge Recipe

I like a good brew outdoors and as I’m currently not so mobile (still on crutches!) I get cold quickly, so I need tea fast and Kelly Kettle is my saviour. Not just tea, the kettle is great for warming foods such as strawberry buns! Yes summer is over but you can still enjoy strawberries with the recipe that I posted last week. I actually prefer the buns steamed, I like to bake a big batch eating some fresh and freezing the rest. Then I pack some up to enjoy in the great outdoors and this is how….

Autumn Steamed Shizuoka Steamed Buns 

Method: 

Take buns from the batch you baked using my recipe.

Wrap them well and pop them in your backpack ready for a hike or in your picnic hamper, with a warm blanket, ready for some reading in the Autumn sun.

Pack up your stove, Kelly Kettle or any camping cooker.

Pack a strong saucepan, canteen of water and all your tea needs.

Head out the door and find your place in the Autumn sun.

Carefully set up the kettle, putting enough water in to make tea. 

Place a small amount of water in the base of the saucepan, enough to cover it, then put the buns in. 

Once the kettle is fully alight place the saucepan on top of it and steam the buns for 10 mins. The buns should be hot, steamed soft and slightly sticky. 

Carefully remove the saucepan and set aside. 

Using the boiled water from the kettle make your tea.

Once brewed serve the tea and buns hot and enjoy a taste of summer in the Autumn sunshine. 

Recipe

*This post is not sponsored by Kelly Kettle. The post reflects my joy of Autumn and my thanks for the handy device. 

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Welcome in Porridge Season with a new Recipe book

The mornings are cool and damp, the wind is whistling and whipping up the falling leaves  and the nights are drawing in. It can only mean one thing – Porridge Season is here!

I’m never downhearted when Autumn arrives as to me the change in weather marks the start of Porridge Season, a time when people ditch muesli and overnight oats in favour of the best breakfast Porridge.  

If you have lost your Porridge making mojo then what better way to get back into making hot breakfasts on cold mornings then with a new recipe book. In time for the 25th anniversary of the World Porridge Making Championships the Golden Spurtle have launched a book to commorate the compeition and to share winning recipes from two and a half decades of Porridge perfection.

From sweet classic breakfasts to adventurous savoury oat dishes, the recipe book has it all – including a winning recipe from me; Oatmeal Spotted Dick,  the dish that won me the title of World Specialty Porridge Maker. 

The book is on sale now in the beautiful competition village of Carrbirdge, and available online via ebay. It will also be on sale on competition day along with handmade spurtles. Perhaps the perfect reason to attend the Golden Spurtle being held on Saturday the 6th of October 2018. 

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Shizuoka strawberry buns for a bit of baking on my blog

It has been a really good summer for strawberries. Every year I have a debate with friends about which is the best summer fruit. It always comes down to raspberries Vs strawberries but this year with all the heat and sun strawberries won out.

It has been an even better year for my strawberry eating as I had an unexpected early start to eating my favourite fruit when I came across the most succulent strawberries in Shizuoka, Japan. Of all the foods I was expecting, and looking forward to eating whilst on my travels, I did not expect to be eating strawberries in April in a very remote tea growing region close to Mount Fuji.

Strawberries were served with everything from a cooked breakfast to smoothies but they were served as a delicacy; a perfectly shaped fruit full of flavour and aroma. I’ve never tasted strawberries so good, so early in the year, so I was in my element. It wasn’t until I reached the big cities that I started to see strawberries in food. 

Two of the best were strawberry sandwiches; fine bread, thinly sliced and filled with custard, cream and halved strawberries, and strawberry buns filled with cream cheese. These may not sound like the most likely of combinations but they were delicious. So much so that since my return home I have been day dreaming of strawberry buns. Only one thing for it and that was to make my own recipe. It has been a long time since I have posted anything other than a Porridge recipe, a Spurtle suggestion, or a bit about oats so this is a baking departure for me!

This is a farewell to summer recipe so I’ve made the buns with freeze dried strawberries, which also means you can keep making them until long into the winter months. 

 

Shizuoka Strawberry Buns 

Ingredients 

1 Teaspoon of yeast

1 Teaspoon of sugar 

50 ml Warm water

1 kg Spelt flour

60g Butter

10ml Milk

50g Xylitol* (sugar or other sweetener)

40g Freeze dried strawberries

200g Ricotta

1 Teaspoon of vanilla extract

Makes – Six big buns

Time – 1 hr preparation and kneading, plus 20 mins for baking 

Method

Put the sugar and yeast into a measuring jug, add the warm water, stir well and leave for 10 mins.

Warm the butter with the milk in a saucepan, until the butter melts, making sure not to let it boil. 

Sift the spelt flour into a deep mixing bowl.

Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the yeast water, milk and butter.

Bring the mixture together with the tips of your fingers. The mixture should start to feel like a dough, add a little more milk if needed but the mixture should not be sticky.

Dust the work surface, turn the dough out and knead vigorously for 5-8 minutes. Knead like bread, don’t be too precious as it’s a robust dough!

Then return the dough to the mixing bowl, cover with a tea towel and place somewhere warm for 45mins.

Add the freeze dried strawberries and Xylitol to the dough and knead again.

Divide dough into 6 equal portions and shape into balls.

Pour the vanilla over the ricotta and mix thoroughly.

Then take a ball, make a hole in the centre and spoon in the ricotta. Make sure hole and the ricotta are covered by the dough, shape again if necessary. 

Grease a baking tray and place the balls on, making sure there is plenty of room between each as they will expand during baking.

Then place into a hot oven at 200C and cook for 10 minutes.

Turn the tray if necessary and reduce the heat to 180C, cooking for a further 10 minutes or until the buns are well risen and a light golden brown colour.

Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack. The buns are best eaten warm on the day of baking but they are also really good re-heated. In my next post I will encourage you to enjoy autumn in the great outdoors with my recipe for Steamed Shizuoka Strawberry Buns. 

*I use the natural sugar substitute Xylitol in my baking but you can use any sugar or sweetener for this recipe. Though don’t use anything with a strong taste as these buns have a delicate flavour.

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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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