A celebration of oats on World Porridge Day…

Over the years I have developed an increasingly deeper relationship with porridge. When I was younger it was a quick bowl of Readybrek fired into the microwave. As I have grown older I have refined my recipe so much that I suspect the O’Neill household is now home to one of the most elaborate porridge feasts on these islands.

Many people think porridge is hard to make or takes too long. Nothing could be further from the truth. It can be a simple and nutritious breakfast for all. It is dramatically more healthy than the normal breakfast abomination of cereal, most of which should be in the confectionery aisle, they are so packed with sugar and other refined ingredients. Porridge is also fantastic value, you can pick up a packet from only 50p.

So here, dear reader is my current recipe for porridge.

First, you need good oats. I prefer jumbo oats because they provide a better flavour and slow-release energy. For loyal sons of Ulster, there are White’s Oats – milled in Armagh since 1841. For those who aspire towards unity, there are Flahavans – milled in Waterford for over 200 years. I mostly go with Flahavans Organic Jumbo Oats, but in the spirit out cross-community flexibility, I tend to go with whatever one is on offer.

The next step in the proceeding is to steep the oats overnight as the jumbo oats cook quicker the next morning. It is a personal choice if you want to make them with water or milk. I was always a milkman until I tried the water method last month and was surprised that it was actually quite good with water. If you use water remember to add a pinch of salt, as salt acts as a flavour enhancer. A simple guide is to use 2 parts water or milk to 1 part porridge. The porridge in the round containers comes with a handy scoop to measure it out. A normal portion for one person would be 2 scoops of porridge and 4 scoops of milk or water – then just double for each extra person, or halve the portion size for kids.

The next morning I take out the porridge and here is where you have your next decision – microwave or pot. I was always a microwave man assuming it was quicker but I have recently converted to the wonder of just doing it on the hob in a pan. The hob takes no longer and gives you a creamier result. The secret is to continually stir it in the pot with a wooden spoon. The cooking process will take less than 5 mins. I turn the hob on full until the porridge starts to bubble then I turn the hob off completely but keep stirring until it thickens.

Once the porridge is ready your next decision is what toppings to add – if any. I like a lot of toppings. I start with some sliced banana, then I add some berries such as strawberries/raspberries and blueberries. I use the frozen berries from Lidl as they are a quarter of the price of fresh ones and fresh ones can be very tasteless this time of year. I have tried most of the supermarket frozen berries and Lidl are the best, just put some in a bowl the night before to defrost in the fridge.

After the berries, I then add a scoop of crunchy peanut butter for a bit of protein and texture. On top of the peanut butter, I add a small blob of GU Chocolate spread – this is basically a fancy Nutella but with less sugar and none of that pesky palm oil.

The final step is to add a splash of double cream to the ensemble. This is an important addition if you are making the porridge with water as it adds creaminess to the mix. If your berries are a bit tart you could also add a splash of maple syrup.

I know all this might sound rather over-elaborate but it all takes less than 10 minutes. My 5-year son loves his porridge and horses it all into him. He gets the full works just like daddy’ porridge, a much healthier start to the day than sugary processed cereals.

The photo accompanying this post was this morning’s porridge – feast your eyes on the glory. Why not give porridge a go for tomorrow’s breakfast?

World Porridge Day was founded by Mary’s Meals. They are a charity who feed more than 1.6 million children in 19 countries around the world every school day. You can feed a child for a year with a donation of only £15. Find out more and give a donation here…

This post was not sponsored by Mary’s Meals. I actually do just really like porridge, and I am happy to plug charities who do good work.