Has ‘Posh Porridge’ peaked?

Bol PorridgeThis year I’ve been blogging on the trend that is ‘Posh Porridge’. Now I love oaty innovation but even I’m beginning to ask if the best breakfast; a bowl of Porridge, has moved too far from it’s healthy and humble origins to just another food fad.

Another restaurant, another menu of ‘Posh Porridge’ popped into my e-mail inbox this week via the lifestyle magazine Wallpaper*. Although opening back in 2015, the Bol Porridge Bar has been gaining oaty notoriety mostly because it’s French. Now this might not seem odd; French + fine food is not normally headline grabbing stuff but Parisians and Porridge is. I was once told by a French Chef that Porridge would never take off in France because the French “Like a breakfast that is crunchy”. Granola has seen sales steadily rise in France during the last five years whilst Porridge was rarely seen in supermarkets let alone on cafe menus.

Along comes Bol Porridge with their menu of oats with; exotic fruits, salted-butter caramel sauce and even catching the 2015 trend for savoury Porridge with their offering of smoked haddock, leeks and spinach. This does sound delicious but with Porridge costing up to 9 Euros I’m left asking the question;

Have we reached peak ‘Posh Porridge’ yet?

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5 reasons to be cheerful

Egg cup 1The last few months have been tough for me, rather like an oat groat “I’ve been through the mill”. Just like a dusty Porridge grain I’ve needed a little tlc, a bit of rest and recuperation to get me back on track to full health, full Porridge Lady fitness. Over the weeks I’ve come to appreciate some simple things in life and some super people. Of everything that is getting me through this tough patch, there are 5 things that have really helped;

1. Eggs – One of the few good things about needing time out to deal with ill health is having time for breakfast. Now obviously I’m Porridge Lady by nature as well as name but the pressures of work had meant that breakfast had become a quick bowl of oats before dashing out the door. No longer dashing has meant time to add an egg to by breakfast repertoire. Delicious and nutritious the egg has added much needed protein to my diet which is helping me to mend. Add a few dipping soldiers of toast and I am instantly, and nostalgically, transported back to childhood breakfasts.

Egg cup 3

2. Honey – Back in 2016 I undertook training to become a bee-keeper with high hopes of establishing my own hives. Business travel soon put pay to that but over the last few weeks I’ve managed to play catch up on bee news thanks to the blog of the Oxfordshire Natural Beekeeping Group. The group have also recently joined twitter, follow them if you too want all the buzz on bees (sorry couldn’t help myself).

Alongside learning I’ve also had time for tasting. Thanks to an intrepid London commuting  friend I’ve been kept in good supply of Fortnum & Mason’s finest honey. This year Fortnum is on fine form with a super selection of British honeys. I’ve enjoyed tasting my way around the country and so far the Yorkshire Field Bean Honey is my favourite, very distinctive and very different from any honey I’ve had in the past.

Sadly due to illness I was also unable to join in with the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations. However a gifted jar of ‘Queen Bee’ honey from royal hives put a smile on my face.

Queen honey_

Queen honey sml (2)3. NHS – One of the institutions that makes Britain Great is the NHS. Free at the point of access and available to all, the NHS is staffed by hard working professionals. I’ve heard Jeremy Hunt’s opinion and read a lot of press speculation, however this holy grail of egalitarian British society has patched me up and held me together, for which I will be forever grateful.

I love NHS

4. RHS Chelsea Flower Show – Just a few months ago I didn’t even know if I would be able to walk the show grounds of the annual Chelsea Flower Show. From wheelchair to walking stick to just a slight limp, I’m now raring to go thanks to the Physiotherapists of the NHS. It’s hard to understate just how happy I am to be getting to Chelsea this year. For me the flower show is the start of the summer season, a time to dust down my floral frocks and get ready for a summer of flowers, gardens and general joy in the sun. I’m already obsessed with the 2016 show, so expect to see lots of photos and tweets from me at #RHSChelsea . 

OutsideInsidegarden1smlTelegraph Garden_1sml5. Social Media – The wonderful world of the web gets a bad press; trolls, hate speak and the horrible side of human nature. However it has a positive side too; compassion, empathy and friendship, all of which I have experienced from lovely people on Twitter and Facebook. I’ve had really uplifting messages people sharing their physiotherapy recovering stories and sharing super cat photos, which always cheers me up. On days when I wasn’t able to go out, social media has brought the world to me and I say a big thank you! To you lovely people :-) 

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Top tips for a summer of wild swimming

Wild Swim blog postLast weekend I was on BBC Radio Berkshire being interviewed about wild swimming. I talked on the joys of swimming in the great outdoors, with the sun on your face and wildlife all around. I also talked about swimming safely, as it’s a sad fact that every year unprepared people get in to trouble in the waterways and seas around Britain. However with a little preperation you can enjoy a summer of sunny swims and here are my top tips;

  1. Swim sober – Never, EVER! Drink before swimming (and that’s the same for a swimming pool as much as open water!).
  2. Go with an experienced swimmer – Find a friend who is a strong swimmer or join a wild swimming group.
  3. Be prepared for a bracing (cold!) swim- And never under estimate how cold water will drain your energy.
  4. Get to know the water – is there a current? Are there other river users such as rowers? And scope out your exit point from the water before swimming.
  5. Get some kit – I swear by a red silicone swimming cap. Not only does it keep me warm but is also means I can be seen more easily by other river users.
  6. Join the outdoor swimming society – The best place for wild swimming advice and a forum to find swimming friends.

Most of all enjoying breaking free from sanitised sports and chlorinated swimming pools, to enjoy a fun swim in the sun.

Wild Swim blog post OSS

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Porridge Lady on BBC Radio Berkshire this Sunday

Wild Swim cropped_

The sun is out and my spirits are high ready for another summer of wild swimming! What is wild swimming and where and how do you do it?

This Sunday on BBC Radio Berkshire’s Bill Buckley show I will answer all these questions and give tips on how to swim safely in open water from my own experiences. So if you fancy a dip in the sun this summer, listen in to the show from 1pm on your radio or on-line here.

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Pause for thought

Dreamy First blossom 2016My life is usually so busy that I rarely pause for thought. As much as I try to listen to Radio 4’s ‘Thought For The Day‘, which I find uplifting, challenging and wise in equal measure, in reality I’m usually at work by 7.45 am or at least on a train somewhere to it. Then along came a bike accident, a knee injury and rehabilitation. Suddenly doctors surgery’s and hospital waiting rooms become a lacuna for thought. 

The knee injury has prevented me from working on my orchard, which is frustrating as spring is a vital time to set to work on cherry trees. However I am lucky to have a fit and strong horticulture partner, who in my absence, thoughtfully sent me a photo of the first blossom. Not just of spring but the first ever cherry blossom on the orchard! Whilst I could not be there in person I decided to take a lesson from Japanese culture and enjoy Hanami, to take time to marvel at the amazing photo.

Hanami or the festival of cherry blossom viewing encourages us to;

Simply enjoy the intensity of the many blossoms by looking at a single tree or a group of trees. From a distance, the trees appear as beautiful clouds, while the beauty of single blossoms can be enjoyed from a close distance.

To enjoy ‘as beautiful as a cloud’ reminded me of something else I had been neglecting, my membership to the Cloud Appreciation Society (CAS). As an amateur meteorologist, or really just having a rather British obsession with the weather, I joined the CAS after hearing its founder Gavin Pretor-Pinney speak at the Royal Meteorological Society.  Captivated I started to stare at the skies, rather than just taking that blue background with cotton ball lumps, for granted. 

Cloud a DayThe sky, it’s a big subject but CAS is no offering a new ‘Cloud-a-Day’ e-mail service. Each day an e-mail pops into my account containing a beautiful, mystical or hilariously shaped cloud, with a brief but through description and explanation for it’s formation. In a busy world Mr Pretor-Pinney provides a mobile thought for the day, something I can pause to look at whatever waiting room I am in. I feel thoroughly cheered up on gloomy painful days by the clouds and if you would like to be lifted too, to enjoy the sky whilst stuck on the underground or in a windowless office you can sign up here.

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More Spurtles for sale!

Spurtles - Cranachan & CrowdieBack at the start of the New Year I started a search for Porridge Spurtle sellers. By February I had amassed quiet a list that I posted here on my blog. However not one to rest on my laurels! I kept the search going and I can now add Edinburgh’s ‘Cranachan & Crowdie‘ to the list.

The lovely Spurtles you can see photo above are available in the Edinburgh shop on the cities ‘Royal Mile’, 263 Canongate, EH8 8BQ. They are also available to buy on-line here.

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Farmers, Food and the EU. Where is ‘Food Brexit’ in the EU referendum debate?

Cereals tractorI’ve been talking to a wide range of people involved in food and farming over the last few weeks about how leaving the EU could change their businesses. According to The Spectator (27/02/16) 40% of the EU budget is spent on supporting farmers via the Common Agricultural Policy or CAP. With Britain paying £6 billion into the fund you would be forgiven for thinking it’s an expensive issue, if not an important one. However food and farming has been overshadowed by the headline grabbing issues of boarders, immigration and terrorism.

Whilst the Guardian has broached the issue of falling incomes for farmers in a post-Brexit UK, very little has been mentioned in the mainstream media. Is this because we don’t have an have an appetite for food politics? Or as the Spectator states because we are now urban dwellers (80% of the population) we are removed from farming, removing support both social and political, from farmers.

For me farming is a vital aspect of ‘Brexit’ because the EU has played such an important role in regulating the agricultural practices that produce our food. That is why over the last few weeks I have been talking ‘Food Brexit’ to anyone who will listen. However it’s felt like a one woman campaign until I heard about an event being hosted by The Kindling Trust and The Food Ethics Council.

Food Brexit‘EU Referendum: a spotlight on food & farming’ is an event that will “bring together industry experts and those working in the sustainable food sector to get clued up about the implications of staying in or leaving the EU” and will explore “the social, economic, cultural, environmental and ethical implications of the ‘stay’ or ‘leave’ outcomes”.

I am really disappointed not to be able to make what sounds like a challenging and informative event. However I am really glad that finally campaigning organisations and those working in the agricultural sector are coming together to talk ‘Food Brexit’.

The event is happening this Tuesday (19th of April 2016) and you can register here. If you are attending the event I would love to hear from you afterwards, to find out about the presentations, the debates and mostly importantly where ‘Food Brexit’ goes from here.

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Vladimir Putin the Porridge eating President

Putin PorridgeStop press, hold the front page! Vladimir Putin is a Porridge eater! In news that overshadows the ‘Panama Papers’ 😉 it has been widely reported (from Putin’s annual phone in with the Russian public) that the Russian President eats Porridge “with pleasure every morning”. Although asked by a young girl what he did when confronted with sub-standard Porridge the premier answered;

“You know, I’ve never been forced into anything I didn’t like in my life.”

Porridge chefs You have been warned! Although my favourite reporting on Putin’s Porridge eating comes from the Telegraph newspaper who provide a full minute by minute account of the radio interview;

Porridge: the verdict

Questions from children coming in. Should you have porridge for breakfast? What would your three wishes be?

Putin says he found he came to like porridge more as he grew older. And we shouldn’t rely on fairy tale characters to grant us wishes, but work with our own hands.

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Posh Porridge Hits Australia

Delicious Posh Porridge

Back in February I blogged on the new trend for ‘Posh Porridge’. I talked about the rising trend of pretty Porridge pictures on Twitter and Instagram and my own experiences of very posh Porridge at Claridges Hotel, London. So I could see it was already a big trend but now ‘Posh Porridge’ has hit Australia too!

This week Delicious, the on-line ‘down-under’ version, posted this really interesting article on the rise of Australian ‘Posh Porridge’. “Topped with everything from violet sugar to mulled wine, porridge has never been better” says the article and I have to agree when looking though at the cafes listed. Personally my favourite is ‘Foxy Autumnal Porridge’ served by ‘Bread and Circus’ with pre-soaked whisky oats, bananas, blueberries, coconut, pistachio and, and!!! Clotted cream.

So when the magazine asks “is posh porridge the next big thing?” My answer would be, it already is!

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Easter, rain, rhubarb and a recipe

Forced rhubarb 23aMy Easter has been one of rain and rhubarb. It’s been a pretty wild bank holiday weekend and my garden looks a little worse for wear after the winds of storm Katie. However my resilient rhubarb has come up trumps, as it seems to be as wind proof as Donald’s Trumps hair. 

Last autumn I invested in a rhubarb forcer that has allowed me to have a really good crop of early, and brilliantly pink rhubarb, alongside the slower growing ruby red kind. To make the most of this early crop I’ve been cooking up a rhubarb compote ready to top my Porridge. 

Forced rhubarb aI like to serve my rhubarb sharp and tart on creamy jumbo oats made with plenty of milk. My recipe is a simple one that allows the rhubarb to shine. I hope you will give it a go on your Porridge and enjoy the best of the early spring season.

Forced Rhubarb Porridge

Ingredients

  • 200g forced rhubarb
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons of orange juice
  • 80g jumbo oats
  • 285ml cold water
  • 285ml full cream milk

Serves: Two

Method

  • Take a heavy based saucepan and pour in just enough cold water to cover the base.
  • Add the vanilla to the water.
  • Then wash and chop the rhubarb into chunks and place into the saucepan.
  • Cover with the orange juice and then put the pan on a low heat to simmer gently.
  • Into another saucepan add the oats, water, milk and stir thoroughly.
  • Place the pan over a high heat and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 mins.
  • Then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for a further 3-4 mins, stirring the oats regularly until you have a nice thick Porridge.
  • Whilst the Porridge has been cooking the rhubarb should have softened and be ready to serve. Don’t stir the rhubarb during cooking as this will break the pieces. Only turn the rhubarb gently with a spatula if it starts to stick to the pan.
  • Pour the Porridge into bowls.
  • Spoon the rhubarb pieces and some of the juice, over the Porridge.
  • Serve hot and enjoy the best of the season. 
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