Breakfast, lunch or dinner: the joys of savoury porridge

How I did it, less elegantly but very deliciously.

How I did it, less elegantly but very deliciously.

I got it into my head this morning that I had to make savoury porridge. I’ve been trying to find interesting ways to get veggies into my breakfast for a while but I wasn’t in the mood for an omelette or frittata (the omelette’s slightly more sophisticated cousin).

I was also in the mood for porridge, and a couple of weeks ago I was in 26 Grains at lunchtime inhaling a gorgeous Indonesian chicken brown rice porridge, so the idea of making it savoury had obviously been in my mind for a while.

How 26 Grains did it all professional and proper like.

How 26 Grains did it all professional and proper like.

I had neither the time nor patience to make brown rice happen, but there’s genuinely no reason not to cook porridge oats in a savoury dish; after all, it’s generally the sweetness of the milk (and our habit of adding fruity toppings) that makes them taste more puddingy. While most of the traditional savoury porridge type dishes that you might think of from elsewhere in the world (such as congee) are rice based, there is simply nothing stopping you experimenting.  Inspiration and ancestry need not go hand in hand. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

So after poking around the fridge and cupboards and supplementing with whatever looked interesting as we took an early morning turn around the supermarket, this is what I made. It’s a bit fast-paced but it’s super easy, all done in under half an hour and MFP tells me it only has 4g of sugar – perfect if, like me, you prefer a low-fructose diet.

Ingredients

(Makes one serving)

40g porridge oats
300ml water*
Vegetable bouillion powder*
85g mushrooms, sliced
A generous handful of spinach, whole or loosely torn
2 spring onions, chopped
A few leaves of basil, rolled up and thinly sliced
An egg**
Coconut oil for frying

Method

Prep all the vegetables first, and boil a full kettle – you’ll need it both to make up the stock and to poach your egg. Make up your stock, and get water into a pan to simmer for your egg.

Start off your porridge on the hob, using the stock. This recipe uses too much water on purpose as I wanted a really soft, swollen-flaked porridge – quite different to the thick, almost chunky “sweet” porridges I prefer. Adjust this to your own preference, but if you use my amount you’ll need a longer than usual cooking time to give the oats time to absorb the liquid. You’ll need to stir this quite frequently to stop it burning, so keep the heat medium-low. This is not a restful recipe, but you’ll make up for that when you eat it.

Put the coconut oil in a pan and start it melting. As it does so, check the poaching water – when it’s right, tip in the egg (this is the method I use). While the egg is cooking, put the mushrooms in the pan to sautee in the coconut oil. I also added all but the green fronds of the spring onion as I find it too strong  to have too much of it raw, but it’s up to you.

When the egg looks done – I like it with a runny, gluey middle – fish it out gently on a slotted spoon and set it to one side to drain. Duck egg whites are a bit more rubbery and translucent, so don’t worry if you haven’t used these before. Also, it will cool a little but this will not matter at all.

Go back to stirring the porridge until it’s the consistency you want. At the same time, the mushrooms will be almost ready – chuck in the spinach towards the end to just wilt, plus half the basil to warm it through. Season.

Pour the porridge into a bowl, spooning the vegetable mix on top. Gently tip the egg onto the top of that, and then sprinkle with the spring onion ends and remaining basil. Season again to taste, and dig straight in.

Runny yolks. Not beautiful to look at but SO GOOD.

Runny yolks. Not beautiful to look at but SO GOOD.

I meant to add a squirt of ketjap manis over the top for a hint of sweetness (and just to complete the ludicrous clash of multiple cultures already going on); I forgot, and it was still the most delicious thing I’ve made for some time. Also, it could probably have done with another texture – some nuts or pine nuts, or even steel-cut oats – but I have to admit for a fondness for comforting, baby food simplicity sometimes.

This is very much a ‘substitute what you like’ type recipe – in fact, it’s not even a recipe; it’s basically an elaborate serving suggestion.

I can feel a new obsession brewing already, as I try to work out what the next wonderful combination I can squeeze onto a plate is. And of course this is far from just breakfast. I’m a big fan of all foods at all times (pizza for breakfast; Shredded Wheat for dinner), but I particularly like the little glow of smugness you get from starting off the day with a couple of handfuls of veggies. Especially on the days when you know you’re likely to finish it on a dinner of a multipack of questionably flavoured crisps.

Oh dear. This is going to be a whole Pinterest board, isn’t it?

*I would usually just use my own stock here but I wanted a lighter vegetable stock and also it was frozen and I was feeling lazy
**I used a duck egg for richer flavour as I was feeling fancy, but as with all the above this is completely optional

Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com

Free From Farmhouse

Food Blogging: The Pesach and Greek Easter Edition

Usually around this time of year, the Roumbas / Goldstein household becomes pretty grumpy. Our self-imposed desire to take part in the two key events of our respective religious traditions is not done with all that much grace or tolerance, which is a shame, because we could be learning valuable lessons in restraint and gratitude. Although actually, Greek Lenten food – mainly vegan, with some seafood-related exceptions – and Jewish Passover treats are absolutely delicious and it all feels a little bit like cheating.

2013 is an unusual exception, as – since the Last Supper was a Seder – Eastern Orthodox Easter generally falls at the same time as Pesach; weirdly, it’ll fall in May this year, but at least my mother-in-law isn’t left wondering what the hell to feed someone at a Seder who isn’t eating any meat, fish or eggs, since I only do the Lenten fast for Holy Week, not the whole 40 days (though I say every year that one year I will do it).

Still, in the spirit of both our traditions, here are a couple of recipes (one’s more of an assembly), one for Pesach, one Greecester-suitable. Enjoy.

Plava

PlavaGluten, wheat and dairy free.

(contains nuts and egg)

Make a great, fluffy sponge without any raising agents? I wouldn’t have thought it possible. But plava’s light, springy texture is derived from separating and whisking eggs – it’s almost a cakey, lemony omelette.

Traditionally you’d use potato flour and matzah meal (which is not wheat free) but I didn’t have any of either and I think ground almonds make for a slightly denser, more delicious cake.

I adapted this from this recipe by Frances Spiegel.

6 eggs, separated
200g caster sugar (some plava recipes call for icing sugar, but I used normal caster sugar)
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
135g ground almonds

Key things to note:

  • Don’t grease the tin – it might stick a little, but if you’re patient with cooling (or line with paper) all will be fine.
  • Use a metal spoon when folding in beaten egg white so as not to knock the air out.
  • As ground almonds tend to burn easily, you could cover this in foil before it goes in, removing the foil when there are fewer than 10 minutes to go (don’t open the oven door any earlier!). I did it the other way around – adding foil after half an hour – because I forgot about their tendency to brown alarmingly, and managed not to collapse the cake, but I wouldn’t risk it usually.

1. Preheat to 180 degrees / 160 with fan.
2. Beat the egg yolks and sugar together thoroughly until pale and light.
3. Stir in lemon juice and rind.
4. Stir in almonds.
5. In a clean, dry bowl with scrupulously clean and dry beaters  / hand whisk, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
6. Fold in with a metal spoon, carefully and quickly as possible so as not to knock out too much air.
7. Pour into a tin (don’t knock it on the surface to make it even, just spread gently), and bake for around 45 minutes – this is a check regularly after 30 minutes job.

Dairy Free Greecester Breakfast Smoothie

Dairy free smoothieI’ve been experimenting with almond milk recently because much though I love cows’ milk it doesn’t always love me. Also, I’m a sucker for trying stuff I see on supermarket shelves. I really fancied a smoothie recently but I know they’re packed full of juices, and I thought if I was going to go on a glucose binge it might as well be the whole fruit. So I made the following, which would be absolutely fine for a Greek fast (perhaps not quite in the spirit of simplicity, but certainly in line with having a light meal).

Since there’s no cows’ milk or yogurt, it is lower in fat and calories than a traditional smoothie, though there’s no escaping the fruit sugar. At least you get the fibre of the oats and whole fruit to balance it out!

180ml almond milk
1 medium banana
25-30g porridge oats
A generous handful of frozen berries
A dash of vanilla extract (I use a 1/4 tsp of paste – gorgeous)

1. Throw in a blender and pulse until smooth. Drink.

Ideally, you’d leave the oats to soak in the milk from the night before, as then they swell and soften, thickening the smoothie and also blending smoother with fewer little oat bits to stick in your teeth.  They don’t really bother me that much, but it can be a little grainy otherwise.

Using frozen berries means they’re always to hand in the freezer, regardless of season, but it also makes the smoothie ice cold, which is particularly nice if you’ve bought long life almond milk and it hasn’t been in the fridge.

It is apparently very easy to make one’s own almond milk – almonds soaked in water overnight, blitzed in a blender with fresh water then strained – but working out the costs it’s probably cheaper to buy it and I can’t help feeling life’s too short for cheesecloth. But if you want to go the full Pinterest Earth mother hog, don’t let me stop you. And then you could make almond butter as well, which is something I do want to try next.