it’s coming to nearly ten months now that I’ve left london – and I try very hard not to think about it: there were fantastic memories during fantastic years, with people who’ve made a big difference in my life. I came across this photo – below – in my archives, taken during one of my visits to le pain quotidien (my absolute favourite breakfast hangout in london) and it made me think very hard.
breakfast is my favourite meal – it dictates how the rest of the day is going to go – and though I head out to brunch regularly with friends, it’s my day-to-day breakfast of hot grain that helps remind me of the times in that glorious city. I’ve had this same breakfast every day since coming back, with variations in grain and stir-ins, but the recipe, and the idea is built upon mornings – and anytime, really – of hot oatmeal in gloomy (but so lovely) london.
I feel like I should apologise for not sharing this earlier – it’s so easy, so forgiving, and really good for you. and I have been making this for ever-so-long; it’s incredibly simple to make a large batch at night (even on weekdays), and then bring it into the office to reheat in the morning. the photos are of a variation with wheat berries, also known as winter wheat, and it’s one of my new favourite grains.
the idea is simple: simmer grains and dried fruit in water until they are tender and plump, stir in a bit of milk and some spread – usually a nutbutter, and top with seeds or more nuts. this makes a creamy-chunky porridge that’s filling enough to last me till lunch – not an easy feat – and high in protein and nutrients, which keeps the runner in me happy.
I like my porridge to be both chunky and creamy, and I have an obsession with buying grains while grocery-shopping. this translates to grab (whatever grain I see) first, and think (about cooking) later. I categorise grains into either creamy or chunky:
- creamy grains cook down to be creamy – duh, viscous and starchy: these include millet, finely ground cornmeal, rolled oats (and steel cut ones, if you cook them long enough)
- chunky ones cook up as discernibly whole grains in a slightly starchy – but still considerably thin – liquid: these include barley, winter wheat/wheatberries, buckwheat (I use raw, but I think kasha will have the same consistency), and bulgur wheat.
mix them up as you like – use whatever you have on hand, really – I like a mix between creamy and chunky in a 40-60 ratio. most days I choose a mix, but pure porridge of just a grain or two lets you taste them better. the following recipe is more in line of a guide to cooking – you’ll find your preferred method soon enough.
hot whole grain porridge
5 heaped tablespoons grain (I use a typical eating tablespoon as measure – let’s keep things easy)
2 tablespoons dried fruit
1 tablespoon nut butter
1-1.5 tablespoon nuts/seeds
maple syrup/honey, to taste
milk, for serving
- start by measuring your grains directly into the pan – make sure to rinse those that need it – and then top with water until about 2cm above the level of the grains.
I like to use a deep pot to prevent spills from the starchy water spilling over, but with a small enough bottom that the grains form a layer on the bottom. set this on high heat until the water boils, then turn it to low to simmer. too-high heat breaks up even your chunkier grains, so keep this in mind unless you want a completely smooth porridge.
- about halfway through simmering time, drop your dried fruit into the pan and continue simmering.
I put them in later because dried fruit can disintegrate very quickly and discolour the cereal – especially when I use dried prunes that are cut up. most mornings I stick to cranberries or raisin-variants – currants give fantastic dispersion factor. check your grain cooking times on their packages – I usually cook the mix for half an hour on an induction cooker on the lowest setting, which means I throw the dried fruit in at about the 20 minute mark.
- remember to keep an eye on the pan – top up water as it needs it, and give it an occasional stir to prevent it from crusting on the bottom – especially important with sticky grains like barley and cornmeal.
- when cooked, pour in milk (I use cold from the fridge since the mix is too hot for eating anyway) until your desired consistency. stir in your nut butter+sweetener or jam, and top with your nut of choice.
I like to use natural nut butters, but I’ve had lots of luck with a japanese black sesame paste that I got recently – anything works! if you’re making this ahead, I like to top it up with a bit more liquid, and only add the nuts in the morning so they keep their crunch, before microwaving directly for 2.5 minutes on high. I’ve cooked this two days ahead without any issue.
it’s a long post – but I hope it helps you if you’re in a rut about breakfast. I love this very much, and it’s almost a sort of challenge to myself to try and convert any grain I see into a great, healthy meal. let me know if you try it!
p.s. if you’re in london, and you’d like to create breakfast memories of your own, I’ve gotten wind of a great breakfast in london at the holiday inn at kensington (so close to where I used to live!) which garnered a midas breakfast award. it has all my favourite things: pancakes and fruit-topped cereal – and even my partner could have gotten a little morning cheer with a full breakfast - if you ever try it out, let me know how it goes?