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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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


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.


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


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.


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


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,


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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