Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Porridge: the reader's guide

Mug suitable for porridge
I was raised on porridge made the right way, with water and salt. We were taught as children, during and immediately after WWII, that porridge when cold can be a packed lunch carried in the pocket. I have been experimenting recently with the optimum quantity to make, and the method, when preparing porridge for one. And before any reader protests that this has nothing whatever with books, let me remind them of The Paston Letters, the best-selling account of day to day life in 15th century England, and other meals in literature such as the stew in Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse' or the all black meal in A Rebours. By the way, forget about making porridge in a microwave. For various existential and practical reasons, that does not  - cannot - produce the best result. I have tried making enough porridge for a week in a big saucepan. The drawback to this method is that you have to bring the whole lot to the boil often enough to keep it from going off in a room-temperature kitchen such as mine - unless you lug the whole lot into your unheated outer hallway which, again, in my particular case, means going downstairs. I have therefore settled, after some months or years of trials on the daily small saucepan and 'mug' method.The equipment required is as follows: a small ceramic dish known as a ramekin; a small saucepan, water (mine is usually filtered and boiled from the kettle) and a pinch of salt. In an ideal world, the preparation stage should take place the night before to allow the oats to soak. Step one:  place the ramekin in the saucepan and fill the ramekin with oats; tip oats from ramekin into saucepan; fill ramekin three times with water from kettle and add to oats; add pinch of sea salt; stir with wooden spurtle. Step Two: Bring to boil over low flame, stir . Leave for a couple of minutes to bubble then turn heat off and leave with lid on for a while. Spoon contents into large mug (pictured). Eat - if necessary on the go. It's easy if you are using a mug, including standing up in the most modern way at your eye level laptop. (that is not a joke).

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