As an Englishman, no self-respecting Scotsman would ever allow me to teach him anything about porridge.
However, it’s not the bowl of porridge that matters, it’s the peripheral things: there is so much you can do with it.
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If we go back to basics and add hot water and salt; that to me is porridge. I know people will have it with jam, fruit, cream, sweet toast or sugar and say they love porridge but they don’t, they love Ready Brek!
Porridge is just so versatile and in the restaurant we use it in more or less everything.
You can use it as a thickening agent and where you use potatoes you can use porridge instead. We have haggis on the menu at the moment and to thicken it up we add brown sauce and porridge.
We also use it to make corned beef hotpot. Chuck some potatoes, corned beef, leeks, water and oatmeal in a pot and there you go. There’s no rhyme nor reason for it, it just works so well.
It goes in every sauce that we do. You can mix it with saffron and spices to make a curry sauce or chuck some spices, garlic, onions and porridge together to make a vegetable curry.
We make tonnes of flapjacks with it: sweet and savoury and recently, because we’ve got so much mincemeat left over from Christmas, we’ve been making petit fours with it.
You can also make a fantastic oaty milk drink. Just add a bit of honey, two ounces of sugar, and porridge oats to milk, steep it overnight then pass it through a sieve. Once you’ve passed it through the sieve, save the oatmeal, roll it out on a tray and put it in the oven to make oaty biscuits for cheese. It’s fantastic and there’s not a bit of waste. You can even chuck in a handful of current and turn them into sweet flapjacks or use paprika and cheese for thin and crispy style crackers.
Or why not add it to your potatoes or go old school and make a crumble out of it?
Out of all of the food I have written about, I would say that it is the most important one. It’s one of the big four in Scotland: there’s porridge, smoked salmon, haggis and whisky. Egypt’s got couscous, America’s got barley, Scotland’s got porridge and England only got Ready Brek, Crunchy Nut Cornflakes and Rice Krispies!
It’s something that I’m drawn to. I love opening a box of porridge, sticking my hand in and moving it around. There’s just something about it, it feels lovely, but, if you were to do it with sugar it would be disgusting!
As I said, I’m not here to teach anyone how to make porridge but, if you ask, I can teach you!
Porridge is a staple of the Scots diet but did you know that 47 million gallons of it are eaten in the UK every winter?
Here are 10 more fascinating facts that you might not know about porridge.
1 Old customs state that porridge should be eaten standing up with a bone spoon.
2 In the ancient Buddhist ‘vinaya’ texts, porridge is eaten by Lord Bussha before he achieved Nirvana.
3 Porridge used to be stirred with a spurtle (a stick made from a tree branch). According to old Scots tradition, if you use a spurtle (a stick made from a tree branch) to mix your porridge, it must always be stirred clockwise. Churning counter clockwise was believed to invoke the presence of the devil and bring a spell of bad luck.
4 Famous porridge eaters include Madonna, Wallace and Gromit, Nicole Kidman, Kylie Minogue, Bill Gates, Nelson Mandela, Demi Moore, Kate Moss and Jane Fonda.
5 Porridge stabilises blood sugar levels, helps reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, lowers cholesterol and battles depression by helping the brain produce serotonin, which keeps our spirits up and our appetite down.
6 Porridge was carried by explorers Richard Byrd and Roald Armundsen to the North and South Poles respectively and has been taken into space by US astronauts.
7 Eating porridge boosts your protein intake
8 Doctor Samuel Johnson’s 18th century dictionary defined porridge oats as ‘A grain which in England is given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people’.
9 Porridge oats are Scotland’s best export and 55% of the oats it produces go to Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
10 Porridge can also help soothe and heal skin problems such as psoriasis and eczema.