It took me several years to learn that good porridge; fragrant, creamy, delicious porridge is *not* born in a microwave. Deciding not to have one (a microwave) forced my hand. Proper porridge (at least in our house) is made with organic rolled oats (never instant) and a good handful of steel-cut (or pinhead) oats for texture. It is made with creamy whole milk and a generous pinch of sea salt (to bring out the flavour of the oats). The cooking process takes about 20-25 minutes and is surprisingly redolent of risotto: before the liquid is added the oats are toasted in a dry pan; they're cooked slowly; stirred almost continuously; and finished with the mantecatura - with sticky soft brown sugar stirred vigorously through the oats in place of butter - then covered and left to sit for about five minutes becoming ever-creamier.
In summer, when the air at the markets is thick with the perfume of stone fruit, I buy apricots by the kilo and bottle as many as I can store. By the time the weather begins to cool, when they are plump and almost drunk on the flavour of a vanilla bean and a few of their almond-like kernels, I begin to crave them with a big dollop of mascarpone and some chopped pistachios, on porridge, of course.
If you don't have bottled apricots, a quick compote of rhubarb and strawberries finished with almonds, some poached pear or quince with chopped walnuts, or a little banana grilled in butter will be just as warming. And there's always next summer for the apricots.
Steel-cut Oats with Bottled Apricots, Mascarpone, Brown Sugar & Pistachios
1 cup organic rolled oats (including up to 1/3-1/2 cup steel-cut oats)
1.5 cups each whole milk and filtered water
Generous pinch sea salt
Brown sugar, to taste
Bottled or stewed fruit, mascarpone and chopped nuts, to serve
Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add oats and toast, stirring frequently for 2-3 minutes till fragrant being careful not to burn. Add milk and water, lower the heat a little and simmer for 10-15 minutes stirring frequently and adding salt about half-way through the cooking time. Once the porridge is creamy and the oats are cooked, add brown sugar to taste, stir vigorously then cover and leave to rest for about 5 minutes.
Serve with bottled fruit, mascarpone and nuts plus a little jug of extra milk on the side.
C(h)ook's notes -
- Adding the salt to the oats too early will toughen them
- For even creamier oats, increase the ratio of milk to water
- I have found that oats purchased at the supermarket (in emergencies) are incredibly disappointing and usually end up in the bin - make a rule of buying good-quality, organic oats from a health store