It is cold. It is damp. It is November. This means one thing; porridge season is most definitely upon us. Time to start the day with a belly-warming bowl of delicious goo. Cereal, please step aside.
I think I’m currently in the midst of a mild addiction to porridge. It’s a fantastic blank canvas for a near-infinite list of toppings, so I’m not going to get bored of it any time soon. Now, I know people can be very specific about their porridge (I haven’t yet summoned up the courage to try it Scottish-style with salt and a side of kippers), but here’s my recipe for how I like it.
As well as being yummy and comforting, it’s also a whole league better for you that most cereals and ‘healthy’ granolas on the market today. That is until you stir in some Nutella, but hey, let’s live a little! Oats are jam packed full of all the good stuff, fibre and vitamins, and will hold off those mid-morning tummy rumbles for a lot longer that Mr Kellogg can. And of course, they’re cheap as chips!
British food often gets a bad rap, and in my opinion it is an entirely undeserved reputation. My gran has lots of old recipe books from the Milk Marketing Board celebrating the great range and variety of local produce from different regions of the country, complete with some rather unappetizing 70’s era food photography!
I went to university in Cardiff, the capital of Wales, and was very gladly introduced to the local speciality, welshcakes. They are essentially a flat scone, studded with sultanas before being cooked on a hot griddle and liberally sprinkled with sugar. They can be eaten hot or cold, on their own or split and filled with jam, even with lemon curd (although I’m not sure what the traditional Welsh purists will have to say about that!) It goes without saying that the best place to get them is at the Cardiff Bakestone in the indoor market, where stacks of cakes are constantly being churned out from an enormous hot griddle bigger than the average table, then sold at a charming 30p a pop.
Now, I know that chocolate brownies don’t exactly scream frugal student living, but bear with me. At university, birthdays seem to occur on an almost weekly basis, squeezing that already tight budget. With the absence of parents, cake can often go overlooked, so these brownies are a great alternative, as well as being much cheaper that the average shop-bought offering. I like to cut them into squares, pile them high on a plate and liberally cover them with icing sugar and candles – party ready!
Brownies are a brilliant starter for a baking novice. They’re meant to be a bit on the squidgy side so it takes off the pressure of baking something perfectly! You can also personalise them however you like. I’ve added mixed chopped nuts, but you can substitute them for chocolate chips, other nuts or even cherries – get creative!
This recipe was an absolute godsend at university. Aside from the slightly time-consuming process of chopping a ton of veg (which is a lot easier if you club together), this is an easy one pot wonder that can feed a crowd and provide a vitamin hit while remaining on a tight budget. Because it bubbles away for a while, it means that if you’ve got some sorry looking veg at the bottom of your fridge it’s so easy to use up those last bits and adapt to whatever you’ve got in.
It’s important that you use some half-decent fat sausages in this, Wall’s just won’t do. For spending that little extra bit of cash, you’ll get such a meaty and herby flavour that makes this that little bit special.
As a new season and new term starts, it’s time for a new recipe. I made these in the slight hope of making a dent in the enormous quantity of apples we now have stacked in the garage after a particularly autumnal wind brought them all down from some of the trees in the garden. Even after stewing and pie-ing and eating, it still looks the same! Apples, raisins and a hit of cinnamon make these muffins deliciously seasonal.
These fruit-packed muffins are ideal for when mornings get the better of us and a grab-and-go breakfast is essential. Despite the misleading title, they are also brilliant for lunches as they are a bit more robust than the usual muffin – they can be slung in the bottom of a rucksack for the day and still come out looking like a muffin! Like most muffins, these freeze well and can double up as an ice pack in a little one’s lunchbox, defrosting (hopefully!) just in time for lunch.