Let's Cook with Meg and Ted

Nana's porridge

When I was little I was a slack lay-a-bed, especially on school mornings, so most of the time I ate cold cereal or toast for breakfast, since they're about the quickest meals possible. On weekends, and occassional organised weekday mornings, mum would sometimes make special breakfast foods - pikelets, corn fritters, or most commonly porridge. She made (and makes) porridge like her mother, my Nana, made it - sweet and heavy with milk, sharpened with a good pinch of salt.

Whenever we stayed at Nana and Grandad's overnight, there was always porridge in the morning, served in the special porridge bowls, which were wide and shallow, one with a green, intricate print on it (I think), and the other... I can't remember, a village market scene perhaps? But the bowls were an essential part of the experience. Nana would stir the porridge over the gas stove, and even now, over a decade since I last had porridge she made, it still only tastes right when there's that slight smell and warmth of a gas stove in the background.

I'm not sure if the recipe below is really the same as the porridge she made. I've always made it by eye and by taste, though I know that she measured out her oats and sugar using one of the enormous silvery-coppery 'tablespoons' she used and my mother still uses for cooking, which hold almost twice as much as a normal tablespoon. The amounts below make one very generous serving - enough to keep you going from an early breakfast till a late lunch without the slightest stomach rumbling. At Nana's this was always made with full-cream milk, from a glass bottle with a gold foil top, but I rarely have anything but semi-skimmed in the house and it works fine. The butter adds more creaminess but also a subtle flavour which I can't describe but which I miss when it's not there.

1/2 cup traditional rolled oats
a pinch of salt
1 heaped dessertspoon of sugar
1 cup milk
a knob of butter (optional)

Put all the ingredients together in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. As soon as you see the first evidence of simmering, turn the heat down to low. Continue to cook, stirring, until the porridge has thickened a bit and the oats are softened - about 4-5 minutes. Eat at once.

21 February 2004

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