Perfect Porridge

I’m a huge fan of porridge for breakfast (…and lunch sometimes!).  I LOVE it.  It’s warm, it fills me up ’til lunch, and – if you’ve got a sweet tooth like me – you can easily fool yourself into thinking you’re having dessert for breakfast – depending on what you put in it.  And there are just so many different flavours and toppings to play with!  Porridge doesn’t have to be that gloopy bowl of gruel that Oliver Twist wanted more of and I dare anyone to tell me that it’s a boring breakfast.  But just in case you are one of those people who’s yet to fall in love with it, or are looking to change up your usual, here are five ways to sex up that steaming bowl o’oats that’ll have you begging for more.  (“Mooooooooore?”)  😉

1. Perfect Your Porridge Recipe

Before you can even think of playing around with flavours and toppings, the best way of ensuring a tasty bowl of porridge is to perfect the base recipe.  Ditching the microwave and instant sachets doesn’t have to be a hassle; doing it by hand will give you a much creamier and tastier porridge – and it doesn’t take as long as you might think.  Here’s my go-to:

Perfect Porridge (serves two)

Ingredients

  • 100g of porridge oats (save the cheapest oats for flapjacks – go for mid-range, rolled oats)
  • 150ml of water
  • 150ml of milk
  • A little boiling water
  • A pinch of salt
  1. If you want to really bring out the flavour of the oats, you can toast them in the oven for ten minutes the night before, but that’s extra work and definitely not necessary!
  2. The trick to quick, creamy oats I’ve found is to soak the oats in a little boiling water for 10 minutes or so before you actually cook them.  I measure them out, put them in the saucepan, cover them with boiling water and then head off to walk the dog.  When I come back, the oats have sucked up all that liquid, softened and are ready to heat up.
  3. Pour in the milk and water and warm up the oats on a medium heat, stirring them frequently with the handle of your wooden spoon.  Yep, you heard right – the handle is better than the actual spoon for creaming those oats.
  4. Once the oats begin to boil, turn down the heat and add your salt.  Even if you’re going to be sweetening your porridge later adding a little salt will help bring out all those flavours.  Keep stirring as it thickens up, and throw in any spices, spread or syrups you fancy at this point.
  5. Leave to sit for a couple of minutes before serving (it’ll save your tongue from scalding!). 

2. Use Flavoured Milk

Basic right?  But it’s amazing how just switching up your choice of milk can really change the flavour of your morning oats.  Obviously there are loads of nut milks to choose from – almond and hazelnut are my favourites – but have you ever thought of using strawberry or banana milk?  Is your mind blown right now?  Most supermarkets out there have got a whole shelf full of flavoured milks to choose from (I think I even saw a Rhubarb and Custard flavoured one in Tesco a few weeks ago…) and they’re great for adding a subtle base flavour before you go crazy with your toppings.  In the picture above I used strawberry milk (which turned my porridge pink!) and then topped it with the last of my summer strawbs, dark chocolate and pistachios.  Fancy!

3. Get Creative with Syrups, Spreads and Spices

Come on, we’re all guilty of stirring a hefty spoonful of nutella into our porridge on mornings when honey just won’t do.  But there are plenty of other ways to flavour your oats while they’re thickening up on the hob, from spices to syrups.

Spices:

  • Cinnamon is my go to, especially with purée’d apples.
  • Cardamom adds a nice twist if you’re using almond milk, or adding berries.
  • Ginger works well with pears and most dried fruits and nuts, and hey, add some boiled, shredded carrot and you’ve got carrot cake porridge!
  • Turmeric is a very strange one, but it’ll give you a very sunny looking bowl of oats that you can sweeten nicely with lots of honey and some chopped almonds.
  • Nutmeg can mixed with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cloves to make a Chai-flavoured porridge. Yum!

Syrups:

  • Maple Syrup is amazing stuff – and even more amazing when you pair it with bacon, baby.  It also goes well with coffee, pumpkin and sweet potato.
  • Coconut Syrup can be stirred in with pineapples and a bit of lime to make a pina colada flavoured porridge.
  • Toffee Sauce I like to add when I use apples and cinnamon to make toffee apple flavoured porridge, but hit up your ice cream aisle for similar sauces.
  • Honey is a easy one and works well with nutty and berry-flavoured toppings.  It also works well with citrus fruits.
  • Earl Grey Syrup – why not?  It’s lovely as a base for citrus-flavoured porridge bowls.  Make it by heating up 100ml of water with 100g of caster sugar and a few Earl Grey Teabags.
  • Golden Syrup is a classic, ’nuff said.

Spreads:

  • Biscoff is AMAZING stirred into porridge.
  • Peanut Butter with some jam or with sliced bananas is a classic.
  • Fruit Curds like Passionfruit or Raspberry are a great way to inject some fresh flavouring.
  • Nutella.  Need I say more?
  • Marshmallow Fluff.  Now that’s just filthy, especially if you add chocolate and some crushed biscuits – Smores Porridge!

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4. Top Things off

Probably the easiest way to pimp your porridge is get creative with your toppings.  Of course there are the obvious ones – dried fruit, fresh fruit, granola and nuts – but have you ever tried crushing biscuits into your porridge?  I was feeling inventive one morning and dropped a couple of broken Oreos into my morning oats and oh dear lord, it was beautiful.  The creamy filling melted, the biscuit went soft (but not soggy) and it was amazing. 🙂

You can also add a blob of your favourite yoghurt – flavoured or plain.  It’ll make your porridge even creamier.  But sometimes basic is brilliant; my Mum for example loves her porridge topped off with some demerara sugar and nothing else.


5. Swap Sweet for Savoury

Who says porridge has to be sweet?  In fact, most Scots would say that porridge should be made with water, salt and nothing else.  But there are plenty of more exciting ways to play around with your porridge if you don’t have a sweet tooth.  I saw a recipe online for a Japanese-flavour inspired porridge, with miso paste, mirin, seaweed and sesame seeds that looked really good, or you could try a Huevos Rancheros bowl of oats by flavouring it with paprika, roasted red peppers, avocado, salsa and sour cream.  Or what about throwing in some bacon and topping it off with an egg?  That’ll certainly see you through to lunchtime!

What are your favourite porridge toppings? 🙂

Halloumi Bread with Fig Jam

I’m going to let you in on a little secret of mine.  I can’t make bread.  Or maybe that should actually be “couldn’t make bread”.  At least not without the help of a machine, anyway.  For a long time bread has been my nemesis; I’m always accidentally killing off the yeast or under-kneading the dough, and my bricks (no that’s not a typo) are never that lovely, light, chewy bread-like consistency.  I’d never EVER survive bread week on Bake Off.

Until now!  *Fist pump*  I tried making this Halloumi Loaf in the bread maker twice and it just did not work.  The first time the machine broke up all the lovely chunks of halloumi until they were were practically invisible, and the second time the loaf was just too dense.  So I tweaked the recipe a little and tried it by hand and whaddya know?  It not only worked, but my oven spat out the softest loaf I’ve ever made.  AND it’s got chunks of cheese inside it.  Banging.  Take that, technology!

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Halloumi Bread (served with Fig Jam)

Ingredients

  • 250g strong white flour
  • 250g plain flour (and a little extra for dusting)
  • 15g fresh yeast
  • 200ml soda water (neat trick to help the loaf rise!)
  • 100ml boiling water
  • 2 tsp of salt
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 250g halloumi, chopped into little cubes
  1. First things first, you’re going to need to activate your yeast.  Pour the soda water and boiling water into a bowl.  Dissolve the sugar into the water and then sprinkle over the yeast.  Whisk and then leave the bowl somewhere warm for 15 minutes (I use my airing cupboard!) until the yeast begins to froth.
  2. Once the yeast is ready, pour in the olive oil and then add the salt and flour.  Stir it together to create a very sticky dough.  Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes.  This stage is messy; there’s absolutely no avoiding it!  But keep stretching the dough and it’ll be worth it in the end! 😉
  3. Once the dough’s been kneaded, pop in a lightly oiled bowl and leave it to prove somewhere warm for one hour.
  4. While you’re waiting, make up the fig jam.  All you’ll need is three or four figs and some jam sugar.  It’s a 1:1 recipe, so take the flesh out of your figs and then weigh what you’ve got to see how much sugar you’ll need.  My three figs weighed 100g, so I used 100g of jam sugar and 100ml of water.  Boil it all on the hob and once it’s set pour it into a sterilized jar.
  5. Once the dough’s had it’s first proving, leave it in the bowl and pour in the cubes of halloumi.  Fold them into the dough until nicely combined, then turn it out onto a lined baking tray.  Shape it, then leave it to prove for another hour.
  6. After the second proving, set your oven to 200.  Sprinkle the dough with a little flour and then poke a few holes into it to help it rise while it’s in the oven.  Bake the loaf for 30 minutes.
  7. Serve warm with a little cream cheese, fig jam and a generous drizzle of honey. 🙂

Happy Monday!  Have a loaf-ly week everyone!  (…that didn’t work, did it?) 

Apple Pie Cake

It’s right about this time of year that my blood starts turning to into custard because – oh yeah – it’s finally getting cold enough to scoff puddings and pies again!  I love pies, but when it comes to custard?  Meh, I’m more of a hot, strawberry blancmange kinda girl  if I’m being totally honest (I’m an 80s kid through and through, okay?).  Sunny, on the other hand, is an absolute super fan who likes to drown his desserts in the stuff and would happily drink it on its own if I let him 😉  When it comes to the dessert itself, he does love a good old apple pie or crumble but would probably admit that at the end of the day they’re just a vehicle for the custard, and as for me I get a bit bored baking the same old apple dishes every year.  So, I’ve been on a mission to come up with an apple pie that’s so damn good it upstages the custard.

Enter the apple pie cake.  There’s no crust, just a fluffy, moist sponge, with juicy, cinnamon-spiced apples and it be eaten either hot or cold – unlike old humble apple pie.  I adapted the recipe from the fantastic buttermilk plum cake I baked over the summer and came up with a keeper.  🙂

Apple Pie Cake

Ingredients

  • 3 Apples of any variety (I used Pink Lady), peeled, cored and thinly sliced into segments.
  • Juice of Half a Lemon
  • 125g Butter
  • 175g Caster Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 100g Plain Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 50g Ground Almonds
  • 100ml Buttermilk
  1. Boil your apple segments in lemon juice and water until they’re just soft enough for a knife to pierce them, then leave to cool.
  2. Set your oven to 170° and grease a 20cm open bottom cake tin.  Sprinkle with a little flour and then set aside.
  3. In your mixing bowl, cream together the butter and 125g of the sugar.  Stir in the egg.
  4. In a separate bowl sift together most of the dry ingredients; that’s the flour, baking powder, ground almonds and 1 tsp of cinnamon.  Combine with the wet ingredients.
  5. Stir in the buttermilk to make a light batter.
  6. Pour the batter into your cake tin and smooth over the surface.  Arrange the apples on top in a spiral starting about a centimeter away from the edge of the tin.  Make sure you overlap them so that when the cake rises in the oven you’re not left with any gaps.
  7. Before you pop the cake in the oven sprinkle over the remaining sugar and teaspoon of cinnamon.  Bake for 50 minutes and then serve up warm with custard or ice cream.  Add some toffee sauce to turn it into a toffee apple cake!

I honestly don’t think I’ll be baking any apple pies this year, it’ll just be this cake over and over and over again.  If you want to see me making it, check out my IGTV for the recipe in video form.  

5 Lazy Breakfasts to Try This Weekend

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Lazy weekend breakfasts and brunches are THE BEST.  I think they’re probably my favourite meal of the week and there’s a good chance that my death row meal of choice would be a big-ass brunch with all the bacon.  There’s something extra special about getting up after a long lie in, whacking on the kettle and then whipping something you wouldn’t normally have time to scoff on a weekday morning.  I know for a fact that I’ve got some leftover buttermilk in my fridge that’s destined to become a big stack of pancakes tomorrow morning and I CANNOT WAIT.  But if you’re in the mood to try something a little different this weekend, here are five lazy brunch recipes fresh from the archives. 🙂

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1. Frosties Battered French Toast

I love French Toast.  If you’ve got some stale bread (brioche, even better), milk and a couple of eggs then you’re golden.  But, let’s take it up a notch – and this is genius – once you’ve dunked your french toast into the milk and egg mix, try adding a crunchy coating by dunking it into a bowl full of crushed cereal before you fry it!  And, bada-bing bada-boom, you’ve got yourself some Battered French Toast.  I like to use Frosties, but you could literally use any cereal you fancy.  The possibilities are endless.

2. Halloumi Hash

This is one of my favourites things to have for Brinner (…breakfast for dinner – am I the only one who calls it that?) and I probably cook it at least once every couple of weeks.  Obviously the halloumi, potatoes and fried egg are non-negotiable, but as for everything else?  Add whatever you fancy or whatever you’ve got hanging about in the back of the fridge.  Cherries tomatoes on the turn?  Throw them in.  Half a red pepper?  Be rude not to.  Leftover salad?  Go for it.

3. Dutch Baby

Oh baby.  If you’ve ever wondered what might happen if you baked pancake batter instead of frying it, then wonder no more.  The result is basically one big, sweet yorkshire pudding.  The edges rise and crisp up to create a kind of bowl shape that you can fill with whatever you like.

4. Hair of the Dog Shakshuka

I call this Hair of the Dog Shakshuka due to the generous glug of vodka stirred into the herby tomato passata that makes up the foundation of this cosy breakfast.  There are literally hundreds of ways to make shakshuka, but all of them end with a very runny, very dunk-able egg (or eggs!) swimming in the middle.  It’s an easy one pot breakfast to share.  Yum!

5. Parfait Pots

If you’re not a fan of heavy brunches or putting in some time in the kitchen on the weekend, then this one’s for you.  Yoghurt Parfait Pots are basically sweet yoghurt pots topped with fruit and granola.  You can whip them up the night before and then just add the toppings before you’re ready to eat them.  The perfect breakfast to take back to bed with a massive mug and a magazine. 🙂

What’s your favorite weekend brunch? 🍳

*Buttermilk Plum Cake

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We’re stone’s deep into berry season now, and while I love a bowl of strawberries and ice cream as much as the next person, cherries, raspberries and plums for me are where it’s at (although – boring fact – technically plums aren’t botanical berries, they’re actually “drupes”).  Plums are so underrated, but I love them for their slightly sour skins and juicy insides, and they’re even better when baked into a cake.  Even Bungle loves plums 🙂

Anyway, M&S got in touch recently and asked if I’d like to try baking with some of their berries.  They’re a huge fan of the Great British Berry (not to be confused with Mary Berry who is also great) – they’ve had relationships with some of their berry suppliers for over forty years and it absolutely shows; the damson plums they’ve got on offer at the moment are absolutely banging.  This plum cake is incredibly simple to make and turned out so well when I served it up at a recent barbecue that I made it again a few days later.  It’s a little bit like an upside down cake, except you bake it upright!  It also stays lovely and moist for a few days because of the buttermilk and juice from the sliced plums… if you can resist scoffing it all at once, that is! 😉

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Buttermilk Plum Cake

Ingredients

  • 125g Butter
  • 100g Plain Flour
  • 125g Caster Sugar
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 50g Ground Almonds
  • 100ml Buttermilk
  • 4 Ripe Plums stoned and thinly sliced
  • (Single Cream to serve)
  1. Heat the oven up to 170°, then grease a 20cm cake tin, dusting it with a little flour.
  2. Hold back 1 tbsp of sugar, then beat the rest with the butter in a large bowl.  Beat in egg.
  3. Sift together the dry ingredients and then fold into the buttercream and egg mix along with the ground almonds.
  4. Gently stir in the buttermilk, then pour the mixture into the cake tin.
  5. Arrange the sliced plums over the surface, making sure to overlap them as the cake will rise and expand as it bakes.  Sprinkle the surface with the extra sugar, then bake in the oven for 50 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
  6. Serve up with fresh single cream. 🙂

Thanks to M&S for the ingredients and for sending this recipe my way – it’s a keeper!  Have a lovely weekend everyone! ❤