Dessert Porridge the new food trend?

Porridge Pudding

I love a new food trend and it’s even better when it contains oats 🙂 so I was really excited to read on Vogue on-line about the new trend for ‘Dessert Porridge’. The new craze hails from Denmark where restaurants such as Stedsans ØsterGro, Copenhagen’s hot new roof top eating spot, have been serving the classic rødgrød med fløde (red porridge with cream).

I was also excited to read about the dessert Porridge because Red Porridge is one of my favourite late summer recipes that I like to make with redcurrants, strawberries or even raspberries. The choice of fruit doesn’t really matter, just pick your favourite, season well and serve generously with cream.

Which ever fruit you choose I hope you tuck into Porridge for your pudding soon.

Speciality 4 (1 of 1)

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Wish you were…. at home? 5 reasons why you should staycation

Staycation PostcardCat Cafe Postcard








I’ve just come to the end of my fortnight’s summer holiday, two weeks of sunshine and ice cream, sight seeing and afternoon tea. Where did I go? The South of France? The Caribbean? No, good old South East England!

Since being knocked off my bike before Christmas, I’ve been in and out of medical appointments and painful physiotherapy sessions. I was REALLY in need of a holiday but still not fully mobile, and needing to attend weekly physio appointments, a far flung holiday was off the cards for me this year. Instead I decided to make the best of a bad situation by having a ‘Staycation’; staying at home to enjoy my vacation.

My fortnight was a holiday of two halves; week one was wild camping, all ‘Swallows and Amazons’, canoeing and camp fires with toasted marshmallows. Week two I was a tourist in my own town, visiting galleries, sight seeing and taking the time for afternoon tea with friends.

Summer Boaty sml

After a lovely stress-free holiday, I would whole heartedly recommend a staycation to anyone but if you still need convincing here are my postcards from home, my 5 reasons to staycation;

1. Save money

No travels costs, no hotel room rates, all you need is a small budget for museum entry fees and money for ice cream 😉 So if you are tired of single room supplements and high season holiday surcharges, staycation!

2. No packing and no lost luggage

An eavesdropped cafe conversation whilst staycationing, I heard two women talking about their lost holiday luggage. A week without clothes and wrestling with airlines insurance policies spoiled their holiday. The answer – staycation as there is no need to pack, no stress of deciding what to take and what to leave and no chance of your luggage being lost by airlines.

3. Cut down on your air miles

We all fly and we all know the environmental impacts of our passion for travel. So why not take one less overseas holiday a year and staycation instead. You don’t have to give up long haul for good, try going every-other-year and stay for longer.

4. Be a tourist in your own town

Enjoying a holiday in your home town gives you time to visit all those places you’ve been talking about, but have never got round too. From local museums to local beauty spots, a staycation gives you time to enjoy where you live, like a visitor. Why not invite your friends to join in too, try that new restaurant or sit all morning chatting and having coffee in the sun. 

5. Do. Be. Be Happy

For me the best part of my staycation was just catching up with myself. I got round to finishing off several books, I caught up with friends, I relaxed and generally slowed down. Being on holiday somewhere hot and exotic is fantastic but sometimes you just need a book and a pot of tea and time to put your feet up.

However you spend your 2016 summer holiday I hope you have fun 🙂

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Where did you get that helmet?

Sparkly helmet 1s smlWhere did you get that helmet where did you get that tile?

Isn’t it a shiny one, and just the proper style,

I should like to have one just the same as that!

Where’er I go, they shout “Hello! Where did you get that helmet?”.

Now I know that normally I’m blogging on Porridge, sharing oaty recipes and tips on how to make the best breakfast but recently my new bike helmet has been the thing that people want to talk about.

I didn’t used to wear a cycling helmet, wearing one felt more like going to war than work. However a serious accident and several months of Physio has taught me how close I came to brain injury, as well as knee injury. So I decided if I had to wear a cycling helmet I would wear one that made me happy, which I why I bought the Sawako Furuno ‘Sparkle Helmet’.

Since buying, and ALWAYS wearing the helmet, people have been routinely stopping me and asking where I bought it. The helmet has made people smile, laugh and talk to me about the joys of cycling. I have to be honest to inquirers, it’s not a cheap helmet. Designed by an architect and individually hand finished, these are helmets of quality, not made in quantity, with a price and a waiting list to match. The helmets are made to a high safety specification (EN1078 and CPSC) and what I like the most is the adjustment wheel at the back that means I can get the fit right, even when I am wearing it.

If you think your head and your ride is worth it have a look at the Sawako range here.

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What’s new in the world of Porridge?

Matcha Porridge_We all love something new, something shiny and fun, but can you really improve on Porridge? 

Whilst I love Porridge the old fashioned way, made with coarse oatmeal, just a pinch of salt and water, I’m not a traditionalist when it comes to oats. I like innovation, new flavours and new fads. For me the best thing that has happened to oats recently is the rise of savoury Porridge and it’s contribution to the ‘Brinner’ trend. That’s why I’m always on the look out for new oaty ideas and especially new Porridge products. 

On my recent travels I came across ‘Matcha Porridge’ in London’s Selfridge’s and it made me wonder what other unique, weird and wonderful oat products are out there!? So I’m asking you to get in touch if you’ve seen something new. Are you a new Porridge producer, creative chef or keen eyed shopper? I’d love to hear from you so I can review the new in Porridge 🙂

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5 big tips for visiting Cereals 2016

Cereals Event Last June I visited ‘Cereals: The Arable Event’ for the first time. The first thing that struck me about Cereals is its size. From the vast site to the giant farm machinery, Cereals is a BIG event! The biggest event in the arable farming calendar needs little introduction, however any newcomer to the agricultural trade show could do with a few small tips. So in this blog post I’m going to share 5 tips from my 2015 trip;

Cereals 2016i1
1) Make a plan of action: The site map is available on-line and my advice is to download it before the event. Then decide which stands you want to visit and make a list based on stand location, otherwise you will end up walking miles!

2) Pack a bundle of business cards: I obsessively carry business cards, just about every pocket of every; suit, bag and coat I own are stuffed with them. However by the end of Cereals even I had run out, so pack plenty.

3) Free lunch? In 2015 I managed to have a free; breakfast, lunch, hot drinks, cold drinks and water. Well it was a hot day and all that talking is thirsty work! All of the marquees and a lot of the smaller stands too, offer free refreshments to encourage you to visit them. If you keep your eyes peeled you will find a wealth of complementary refreshments available. One of the event sponsors even provides a complementary two course lunch!

4) Ladies and Gentlemen: After all that refreshment a you may need to use the facilities, however as I keep saying the site is huge with toilets generally located at ends of the site. So it’s worth checking your map before accepting yet another cup of coffee!

5) Check the weather forecast before you leave home: Sun cream and a sun hat or wellie boots and Barbour? 2015 was a scorching hot year and I really needed the sun hat that I had packed. But 2016 could be a wellie boot year so check that forecast before you pack.


Cereals 2016iii1

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Soil health, the ‘Cinderella environmental issue’

#SoilHealthI was up very early this morning with soil on my mind as today saw the launch of the Environmental Audit Committee’s (EAC) eagerly awaited review into soil health. With input into, and a professional interest in the review, I was heartened to find that the report had received a good level of press coverage. In fact I ate my early morning Porridge accompanied by Farming Today’s coverage of the report and interview with member of the EAC Rebecca Pow MP.

Described as a ‘Cinderella Environmental Issue’ soils have for many years been overshadowed by the global issues of climate change and local issues of flooding. Yet soils are key to combating both of these environmental problems. For too long soils have been thought of only in terms of agriculture food production and I believe this has led to soils being seen as an issue for farmers and not environmental protection. As Ms Pow describes, soils have been seen as a “growth medium rather than an ecosystem”.

The report fully addresses these issues and firmly puts soils on both the political and environmental agendas but at 49 pages long (trust me that is short for a government report) who, apart from soil scientists and policy wonks – is going to read it? That’s where people like me come in, people working in outreach, knowledge exchange, activism. So I hope you can bear with me as I give you, what I feel are the key findings of the report, in 5 bullet points; 

#SoilHealth21. Funding cuts – Cutting funding for the remediation of contaminated soils undermines local councils abilities to deal with the problem. This is a human health issue and “has implications for both health inequality and regional inequality” as London’s most valuable land will be restored.

2. Soil Organic Matter (SOM) – Is acknowledged as key to soil health and the provision of soil ecosystem services. The report calls on the forthcoming Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) 25-year environment plan to provide time-bound and measurable targets. The report recommendations also require the government to state how it will reach its annual target of 0.4% SOM increase, as signed up to at COP21

3. Cross-compliance – Farmers receiving CAP payments must adhere to a set of regulations known as Cross-Compliance. To protect soils a series of  Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) criteria have been set within cross-compliance. However the report states that these do not go far enough; ” The cross-compliance rules which regulate agricultural soil health must be revised with greater scope, force and ambition”

4. Soil monitoring – Noting a hiatus in monitoring and criticising Defra’s intentions but lack action to establish a new programme, the report calls on the Government to develop an agenda for national-scale monitoring of soil health. The EAC recommend that this be aligned with model of the highly successful Welsh Government ‘Glastir Monitoring and Evaluation Programme’ (GMEP). Which interestingly uses some of its CAP money to finance the monitoring programme.

5. Defra 25 year plan’  – The report calls on Defra to; “place soil protection at the heart of environmental policy”, to align the two forthcoming 25 year plans for ‘Food & Farming’ and the ‘Environment Plan’. The EAC also urges for the joining up of soils policies across government to prevent conflicting priorities.

#SoilHealth3This is my summary, my take on a thorough and in-depth report. If you want to find out more detail you can download the full report here.

Burning the candle at both ends today means I must get to bed, especially before the midnight hour approaches, as I don’t want to turn into a pumpkin, regardless of how healthy the soil may be!

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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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