Anna Jones’s recipes for making porridge more interesting | The modern cook (2024)

Porridge: do we really need a recipe for that? That for me is the real joy of porridge – it is simple; foolproof even. I have come to learn it’s a very personal thing, a ratio between oats (or other quick-cooking flaked grains) and a liquid, be it water, milk of any kind, juice or even, if you veer towards decadence, a bit of cream. No two people I know make it quite the same way, and I know of a few households where porridge is made in individual pans to suit differing requirements of oats, milk, consistency and flavour.

I have had an up-and-down relationship with porridge my whole life. The ups: its warmth on a cold day, a bowl in my hands like a morning hot-water bottle, the quick but nourishing time spent stirring at the stove, a welcome interruption and a few minutes to let my mind wander at the start of the day. The downside: I can’t eat porridge on a hot day: it just feels wrong. I’ve never understood those who eat it like clockwork, regardless of the temperature. I used to struggle with the monotonous texture of porridge, I wanted each spoonful to be different and interesting. I know for some this reliable consistency is the appeal, but not for me.

That’s when I began experimenting. Porridge is as much of an opportunity to get interesting flavour and texture into my day as any other. I know the traditionalists out there might be rolling their eyes, but porridge is personal. Round mine, the morning staple is oats flecked with poppy seeds, cooked in almond milk with lemon zest and vanilla. Another favourite is coconut milk with pinhead oatmeal, a good pinch of cardamom, a little honey, topped with toasted coconut and ripe mango when it’s around (just now it’s ripe vanilla-scented persimmon instead). Whatever seasonal fruit is lying around makes a quick compote on the stove with a splash of maple syrup, all of it cooking in the same time as the oats.

Anna Jones’s homemade ricotta recipe and three things to cook with it | The modern cookRead more

Porridge is a quick, easy and cheap way to experiment with flavours – and not just sweet ones. If you dare, try a spoonful of sweet white miso and some toasted sesame seeds, or a little harissa and some toasted almonds. Though I have to say, despite my best attempts, I still mostly give in to my desire for a bit of sweet first thing in the morning.

Weekday porridge recipes must be quick enough to cook on a stove in under 10 minutes (this baked porridge is equally quick to throw into a dish and stick in the oven, but it’s definitely a weekend affair in our house).

The type of oats you use will make a big difference to the end result: I have a few different oat combinations that I rotate: the stoutly named rolled oats – the big fat ones that leave some texture after cooking; porridge oats – the medium cut ones, not instant oats – which I use for a quicker porridge; rye flakes, a malty flavour, for my little boy; and quinoa flakes, which I use some mornings for a bit of protein. Both the rye and quinoa I use in a 50/50 ratio with rolled or porridge oats – needed to ensure a creamy finish.

Sometimes I like to toast the oats or rye flakes: it adds a nutty, deeper flavour. It’s not essential, but a couple of minutes on a medium heat, stirring until they start to smell toasty, boosts the flavour. Another thing I do when I remember is soak my oats overnight in the fridge in the liquid in which I will cook them: I find they are easier to digest and cook a bit quicker – and it takes less than a minute to do. If you think this is a faff, I understand, but it does make a difference.

Chocolate rye porridge with quick honey pears (main picture)

I make this using 50/50 rye flakes to oats, but it can be made with 100g of oats if you like.

Serves 2
For the porridge
50g rolled rye flakes
50g rolled oats
300ml unsweetened almond milk or cow’s milk
A pinch of salt
2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
A pinch of cinnamon
2 tsp honey

For the honey pear topping
2 pears, cored and sliced
1 tbsp honey

To serve
2 tbsp almond butter
A handful of chopped almonds

1 First, make your topping. Heat the pears and honey in a small pan over a medium heat for 5 minutes, or until just warmed through.

2 Meanwhile, put all the porridge ingredients with 100ml water into a pan and cook for 5-8 minutes until the oats come together.

3 Top the porridge with the pears, almond butter, and chopped almonds.

Anna Jones’s recipes for making porridge more interesting | The modern cook (1)

Baked apple porridge with maple butter

This is primarily our weekend porridge for the whole family, but leftovers can be reheated with a little extra milk if you are cooking for one. If you are reheating, then an extra bit of fresh apple grated in would be nice.

I make a spice mix that I add to my stovetop porridge through the week too, hence the spice recipe makes more than you’ll need for the baked porridge alone.

Serves 6
For the spice mix (makes extra for a few breakfasts)

2 tbsp ground cardamom
2 tbsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground cinnamon

For the baked porridge
3 large apples
The juice and zest of ½ a lemon, plus extra for sprinkling
200g rolled oats
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp spice mix
100g nuts or seeds of choice, toasted and chopped (I used pecans and hazelnuts)
750ml non-dairy milk (I used a mix of coconut and almond)
125ml pure maple syrup, plus extra for drizzling

For the maple cream
2 tbsp nut butter (I used cashew)
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
4 tbsp milk (I used almond)
A tiny pinch of fine sea salt
A drop of vanilla extract
A squeeze of lemon (optional)

1 Mix the spices together in a small jar and set aside.

2 Preheat your oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5 and grease a deep ovenproof dish of about 20cm x 20cm.

3 Grate two of the apples. Slice the last apple very thinly through the middle, so you get a lovely star pattern. Squeeze a little bit of lemon juice over the sliced apple to stop it browning.

4 In a large bowl, combine the oats, baking powder, salt, 1 tsp spice mix, the grated apples, most of the chopped nuts (saving a small handful for the topping) and stir to combine.

5 Mix the milk with the maple syrup and the juice and zest of half a lemon.

6 Tip the oat and apple mixture into the greased dish, pour the milk and maple syrup over it, arrange the sliced apples on top and drizzle over a little extra maple syrup. Dot the top of the oatmeal with little pieces of butter or coconut oil if you like.

7 Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the top of the porridge is golden brown and all of the liquid is absorbed.

8 While the porridge bakes, make the maple cream. In a medium bowl, whisk together the nut butter, maple syrup, milk, salt, vanilla, and lemon, if using. If the mixture seems too thick add a little more milk. You are looking for something totally smooth and pourable.

9 Serve the apple porridge hot with the maple cream and extra maple syrup, if you like.

Anna Jones’s recipes for making porridge more interesting | The modern cook (2024)


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