Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The first porridge of the year

We haven't quite hit the first hard frost of the year but fog is now making a regular appearance around these parts, wrapping itself tightly around the house in the early hours and making the prospect of getting up just that little bit less appealing.* Although it usually burns off by lunchtime, the mornings are now dreary, chilly and a touch spooky. Halloween is around the corner, that's for sure.

Time, methinks, for porridge. Comforting, slow-energy-releasing, delicious porridge.

The picture isn't up to much because I'm a photo-idiot (just point and click, right?) and haven't figured out indoor photography yet. And I wasn't prepared to shuffle out into the chilly garden to get a shot while I was still wearing my pyjamas and modelling a particularly glam bedhead hairstyle.** There's no need to put the neighbours off their breakfast.

Everyone has an opinion about the 'right' way to make porridge. It's funny, really, considering that the basic ingredients are oats, water and salt, but there you go - there are probably as many recipe variations as there are porridge lovers in the universe.

So we'll sidestep that highly controversial issue and concentrate on the extra goodies - like, say... the spiced plum compôte in the picture above (seamless link, no?).

Truth be told, I only made it because I bought a disappointing batch of plums last week. They were hard, they were sour, they were, all in all, badly in need of an extreme makeover. But sometimes good dishes can come out of the least promising ingredients.

Simmering them in orange juice with cinnamon and cloves until they started to collapse into jammy, spicy sweetness certainly did the trick. Suddenly these were transformed into plums that were not only edible but delicious and pretty more-ish to boot. So I've been happily ladling a couple of spoonfuls over my porridge all week.

To make this dish, I've tweaked a recipe from Vegetable Heaven by Catherine Mason. Although it was originally a plum and fig compôte in the book, I didn't have any dried figs in the house...

Spiced plum compôte, adapted from Vegetable Heaven by Catherine Mason

You'll need:

100 ml fresh orange juice
2 cloves
3cm stick of cinnamon
450-500g plums, cut in half and stoned
50g soft light brown sugar

1. Put the orange juice, cloves and cinammon to warm in a wide frying pan with a lid while you prepare the plums.

2. Add the plums to the pan in a single layer, bring to the boil, turn down the heat, cover and simmer very gently for about 10 minutes or until the plums are cooked.

3. Push the plums to one side in the pan and add the sugar to the liquid, stirring to dissolve. Serve warm with porridge or Greek yogurt.

Cook's notes

If you'd like to add the dried figs that Catherine Mason originally specifies then you'll need 'a handful'. Just add them to the pan at stage 2, along with the plums.

The original recipe called for 4 cloves but I found that was just two too many.

And I halved the amount of sugar the recipe called for, otherwise the dish is just too tooth-achingly sweet - for me, anyway :-)

Despite all my recipe tweaking above, I love Vegetable Heaven and would highly recommend it to anyone - veggies and omnivores alike. Along with some beautiful illustrations, it's stuffed full of fantastic recipes. Many of them would be particularly good in the winter months as they feature lots of starchy, satisfying combinations to ward off the cold: potato and smoked garlic gratin with mixed greens and brie... pumpkin stew with coconut, chilli and coriander... baked celeriac mash topped with poached eggs... damson clafouti with sloe gin syrup...

*OK, getting out of bed is never appealing, as I've ranted about before - but you know what I mean...

**A short pixie hairstyle means I look like a grumpy hedgehog in the morning, or so I'm told.


Sharona May said...

Hi, I had porridge for the first time when my husband and I were in Scotland a few years back. Pretty good! Yours look great.

Come visit me at:
Sharona May

Jen said...

Thanks Sharona. Porridge is particularly nice when it's accompanied by cream - but that has to be an occasional indulgence only! Very luxurious though.

We really love the oats we're using at the moment - a brand called Flahavans. I've only seen it here in Ireland so far but if you see some in the States, I'd highly recommend it.

Anonymous said...

Porridge - true Scottish porridge - is supposed to be served with salt and raw oatmeal on top and milk, not fruit and milk, and eaten from a wooden bowl with a horn spoon while walking about the dining room (or kitchen) ... truly!

BC said...

Ha ha, I head out to the back in my pj's and hope no one is looking. If they are, I just smile and say good morning.

Jen said...

Anon - I could manage the wooden bowl but not the horn spoon! I've been doing it wrong all these years... How did that tradition come about, I wonder.

BC - my neighbours have small children so I don't want to make them cry first thing in the morning, such is my grumpy demeanour! (Before the porridge, that is. After eating it, I'm a sweetie :-) )

Carrie said...

i love oats! And your blog is very funny! i love your humor!

Jen said...

Thank you Carrie :-)