Thursday, 11 December 2008

Variations on a theme

I’ve taught C how to make porridge, and he now cooks it every morning for himself and O. At weekends, G and I sometimes have it as well. Eating something your child has cooked for you is right up there as one of life’s greatest treats.

He’s tall enough to stand at the stove safely and climb up to where the oats are kept without sending other packages tumbling. He’s no longer freaked out at the process of lighting the gas, and he can measure the ingredients accurately. In fact he can now cook the whole thing semi-asleep and without any fuss at all.

There are only two things you need to know in order to cook porridge:
  1. The volume of liquid must be one and a half times the volume of the oats
  2. Keep stirring

In its most basic form, the ingredients are oats and milk, but even that is not set in stone. There are many variations.

The oats can be traditional Scottish porridge oats or jumbo oats or ground oatmeal. The milk can be swapped for other liquids: apple juice, half milk and half cream, half milk and half water. Even 100% water should you be feeling particularly puritanical.

If he’s making two child’s portions, C tips oats into the measuring cup up to the 20ml mark. Then he measures out one and a half times the volume of liquid – 30ml here. It all goes into a small pan over a medium heat and he stirs until it is thickened to his liking and then spooned, steaming, into bowls. C actually prefers his porridge really quite runny, but I think that’s more to do with impatience to get eating rather than any kind of gourmet preference.

When it comes to additions and toppings to the porridge, C’s creative side comes out.

Favourite additions to porridge – these are added to the pan with the oats and liquid at the beginning of the cooking.

  • raisins – one handful per person
  • dried apricots, snipped into pieces with scissors
  • any other dried fruit – dried strawberries and dried mango slices have been popular with C and O
  • bran – G’s favourite addition – a small handful per person
  • a grated apple
  • chopped hazelnuts
  • all of the above!

Favourite toppings for porridge – these are added once the porridge is in your bowl.

  • golden syrup
  • honey
  • sliced banana
  • fresh raspberries
  • strawberry jam, blackberry jam, apricot jam – any kind of jam
  • soft, dark sugar
  • stewed apple – cold and tart from the fridge

Of course there are endless combinations of additions and toppings. Our favourite discovery recently is porridge cooked with apple juice as the liquid and then with blackberry jam stirred in before eating – you end up with a deliciously sweet, autumnal, blackberry-and-apple start to the day. O is a strawberry fanatic and likes her porridge cooked with dried strawberries and milk and then strawberry jam stirred in at the end.

My mother remembers my grandmother pouring a little dribble of undiluted Ribena around the edge of her porridge when she was a child in the 50s. C and O tried that yesterday and there were sighs of delight around the table. I may not repeat it too often though as the smell in the kitchen was almost horrifyingly sugary. It sounds like a post-War, sugar-rationed adaptation to me. Although is it any worse than a lake of golden syrup on top? Probably not.

This is forward thinking to a ridiculous extent, but right at the back of my mind is now a happy thought: when C leaves home at least he’ll be able to cook himself porridge and have a healthy start to each day. Yes, that’s in a decade’s time, I know, I know.

But it’s never too early to start learning survival skills and it’s never too early to give your Mum a bit of peace of mind.


  1. ooh you have inspired me now. I make my own porridge but the Little Lattes refuse to eat it. If they made it, maybe? will all that STUFF?

    (P.S. - maple syrup. I know, I know. But some mornings are hard)

  2. We have porridge most mornings - I have mine with butter and sugar!!!!! Well at least the porridge is healthy. DS makes his in the microwave, as a teenager this is probably safer all round first thing in the morning, as his body may be up but his brain isn't!

  3. or perhaps a handful of chocolate chips...mmmm....I love golden syrup on mine as well. Thinking about putting it on the menu, what do you think?x

  4. I want porridge now. Right now, and it's a long time till breakfast.

  5. Oh, porridge, lovely. We tend to use milk and water, in the same ratio as you do. But what size saucepan do you use, if you have only 20ml of oats and 30ml of liquid? I have to use at least twice, preferably three times that, otherwise the saucepan is too empty. (I think it is a 20cm saucepan.) And then we have leftover porridge, and I have no recipes for that.

    My fav combination is soft brown sugar put into the bowl before the porridge, and cream afterwards.

    I've never managed to get anything edible when I've tried making porridge in a microwave.


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