I love my porridge. A nice hot bowl of creamy, oaty goodness, a mug of coffee and an episode of Frasier is all that stops me hurling myself out the window every morning at the thought of another day chipping away at my 100,000 deadlines.
Nowadays, we tend to overcomplicate this wonderful breakfast fuel. We find ourselves digging through layers of cinnamon and pumpkin seeds or blueberry compote and snails or whatever else Blumenthal tries to shove down our throats. Perhaps you find yourself lost in the mire of varieties and opinions, and have to be escorted out of Morrisons for suffering a nervous breakdown in the cereal aisle (true story). You need guidance. From me, naturally. So let the spurtle be your lightsaber, and I will be your Obi-Wan!
Porridge has been around hundreds of years. Microwaves have not. Don’t even THINK of microwaving your porridge. Get yourself a pot, a hob and a stirring tool. I love my spurtle (an authentic Scots stirring stick), but a wooden spoon will do grand. Stay away from the ‘instant’ sachets, and lay off the Ready Brek, you‘re not 5 years old any more! (If you are 5 years old, well done for reading this far, and apologies for the Star Wars reference which you probably didn‘t get).
Do not trust the packet. As kindly suggested by ‘Oatmeal of Alford’, I carefully weighed out my 40g of oats and my suggested measurement of water, stuck it on the hob and waited for the magic to happen…and waited…and stirred it a bit…and waited. Eventually I realised that the pathetic puddle of gruel in the bottom of my pan wasn’t going to suddenly double in size. My ‘serving’ was digested in about three angry spoonfuls. Do I look like Oliver Twist!? The moral of the story: 80g of oats minimum, and against my better Scottish judgment, screw the water and get some milk in there! This isn’t Shawshank, for crying out loud, treat yourself.
So your porridge is done, congratulations! But there is still much to learn, young Padawan. The killer question: what do you top it with? The English will generally say jam, the Scottish will generally say salt, and my mum says double cream. (Isn’t she awesome?) Now, I guess I could say it’s a matter of personal preference, but then what kind of teacher would I be? No! You want answers! And the answer is, in fact, cold milk. Why? When porridge gets cold, it sets and goes a bit spongy. Pouring on a little chilly milk when its fresh out of the pan will make just the top solidify a bit, and keep the rest toasty hot underneath! A wee miracle of nature. On that note, you could use double cream for the same reason, or single cream, or Tennents or Babycham, whatever else takes your fancy, as long as it’s cold. Personally I also like salt on mine, but a bit of syrup goes down wonderful as well.
A final note about the different types of oats. Most of the brands you’ll get in Tesco and the like are ‘rolled oats’, which are flattened out things. These taste great, and will only take 5-10 minutes to cook, but for the authentic experience, get yourself some ‘pinhead’ or ‘steel-cut’ oatmeal. They’re little hard kernels which take anything from 30-60 minutes to cook properly, but the taste is, dare I say, ‘oat’ of this world! (Sorry, my puns are usually of a higher degree).
There, I’ve now taught you everything you need to know about this wonderful Scottish staple, so throw out your Coco Pops and start the day with some genuine ‘oat cuisine’!