“Into these bowls, Mrs Squeers, assisted by the hungry servant, poured a brown composition, which looked like diluted pincushions without the covers, and was called porridge.” — The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, Charles Dickens
It’s a blustery morning here outside Boston, and although the wind gusts are warm, the gray, wet weather calls for a bowl of hot porridge.
We typically think of porridge being a oats-based cereal, but most any hot grain cereal can be considered “porridge.” When I was a child and teenager, I remember reading novels where children were forced to choke down their morning porridge, a horrid cold, gray slop. I never made the connection that this dish was the same one I ate most mornings, whether it was the Cream of Wheat or Cream of Rice that my maternal grandmother cooked for us, or the packets of instant oatmeal flavored with apples and cinnamon I’d eat on the run. Hot cereal was always my favorite breakfast, and forty years later, it still is.
I’m the only one in our household who loves starting the day with a bowl of hot porridge. My son won’t touch it, maybe because I pointed out to him he shares the same name as a wide-eyed urchin who had the courage to ask for another bowl of porridge. (Actually, poor Oliver wanted more gruel, which is a thin, watery porridge.) My favorite grain for porridge is Bob’s Red Mill 8-Grain Cereal. It’s not gluten-free, but it is free of wheat, a grain my digestive system struggles with. It consists of ground corn, oats, brown rice, soy beans, oat bran, millet, sorghum, sunflower seeds, and flaxseed.
Here’s how I make it. I bring one cup of water and a pinch of salt to boil. I add 1/4 cup cereal and turn the heat down to low, stirring frequently so the cereal doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. If it looks like it’s getting too thick, I add some hot water and keep stirring. I like my porridge with a bit of chew, so after about four or five minutes of cooking, I start tasting it. When it’s to my liking, I scrape the cereal into a large bowl and the fun begins.
Since porridge is rather bland, it marries well with flavorful toppings. My usual additions are a handful of slivered almonds, a handful of frozen wild blueberries, a teaspoon of coconut oil (esp. in winter!), and a good slosh of maple syrup. Then I top with a bit of milk, mix it all together, then enjoy my porridge while reading my favorite blogs. Not only is this a pleasant ritual, eating porridge every morning powers me through to the afternoon — I get a quick burst of energy from the carbs and sugars, then more steady energy from the fats and proteins in the nuts, coconut oil, and milk. When I skip my porridge routine, I feel it for the rest of the day.
Are you fan of hot cereals? How do you make yours?