March 05, 2010

Breakfast Porridge with Apples and Toasted Cranberry-Walnut Breadcrumbs (double cooked!)

As most of you know my love affair with porridge has transcended the mere infatuation phase and grown into a long-lasting, caring and enduring relationship with no fatigue or boredom in sight.


To find out about how it all began, read more after the jump...

- 3/4 cup Bob's Redmill steel cut oats
- 2/3 tbsp turbinado raw cane suggar
- 1/2 cup of Straus Creamery 2% milk
- 1 peeled and chopped apple (best to use your food processor or grate it)
- vanilla powder
- cinnamon

I cooked the oats in my rice cooker yesterday with a bit of salt and water. This morning I cooked them again (they had thickened quite a bit overnight) with the milk, sugar, apple. The aroma was amazing! I topped the creamy and sweet oats, which resembled a rice pudding, with some leftover toasted cranberry walnut breadcrumbs. This was a wonderful idea - they added texture, a bit of tartness and chewiness!
It started back when I was 5 or 6 years old - no, I didn't have porridge for the first time was then that I first read a novel called The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

There were numerous references to porridge in the book and I was dying to find out what this mystery delicacy tasted like (of course, I didn't think porridge was anything I could find in Bulgaria at the time). What was particularly frustrating to me was the fact that the protagonist, a spoiled girl called Mary, was refusing to eat her breakfast porridge :) It also didn't matter that porridge was portrayed as a rather unrefined (albeit hearty and wholesome!) food for the common folk in England.

Here is a summary of the plot and an excerpt from the book ( I think I have read it about four or five times) from the Project Gutenberg e-book collection :

Chapter 4
It had not been the custom that Mistress Mary should do anything but stand and allow herself to be dressed like a doll, but before she was ready for breakfast she began to suspect that her life at Misselthwaite Manor would end by teaching her a number of things quite new to her—things such as putting on her own shoes and stockings, and picking up things she let fall. If Martha had been a well-trained fine young lady's maid she would have been more subservient and respectful and would have known that it was her business to brush hair, and button boots, and pick things up and lay them away. She was, however, only an untrained Yorkshire rustic who had been brought up in a moorland cottage with a swarm of little brothers and sisters who had never dreamed of doing anything but waiting on themselves and on the younger ones who were either babies in arms or just learning to totter about and tumble over things.
If Mary Lennox had been a child who was ready to be amused she would perhaps have laughed at Martha's readiness to talk, but Mary only listened to her coldly and wondered at her freedom of manner. At first she was not at all interested, but gradually, as the girl rattled on in her good-tempered, homely way, Mary began to notice what she was saying.
"Eh! you should see 'em all," she said. "There's twelve of us an' my father only gets sixteen shilling a week. I can tell you my mother's put to it to get porridge for 'em all. They tumble about on th' moor an' play there all day an' mother says th' air of th' moor fattens 'em. She says she believes they eat th' grass same as th' wild ponies do. Our Dickon, he's twelve years old and he's got a young pony he calls his own."
"Where did he get it?" asked Mary.
"He found it on th' moor with its mother when it was a little one an' he began to make friends with it an' give it bits o' bread an' pluck young grass for it. And it got to like him so it follows him about an' it lets him get on its back. Dickon's a kind lad an' animals likes him."
Mary had never possessed an animal pet of her own and had always thought she should like one. So she began to feel a slight interest in Dickon, and as she had never before been interested in any one but herself, it was the dawning of a healthy sentiment. When she went into the room which had been made into a nursery for her, she found that it was rather like the one she had slept in. It was not a child's room, but a grown-up person's room, with gloomy old pictures on the walls and heavy old oak chairs. A table in the center was set with a good substantial breakfast. But she had always had a very small appetite, and she looked with something more than indifference at the first plate Martha set before her.
"I don't want it," she said.
"Tha' doesn't want thy porridge!" Martha exclaimed incredulously.
"Tha' doesn't know how good it is. Put a bit o' treacle on it or a bit o' sugar."
"I don't want it," repeated Mary.
"Eh!" said Martha. "I can't abide to see good victuals go to waste. If our children was at this table they'd clean it bare in five minutes."
"Why?" said Mary coldly.
"Why!" echoed Martha. "Because they scarce ever had their stomachs full in their lives. They're as hungry as young hawks an' foxes."
"I don't know what it is to be hungry," said Mary, with the indifference of ignorance.
Martha looked indignant.

Chapter 5

At first each day which passed by for Mary Lennox was exactly like the others. Every morning she awoke in her tapestried room and found Martha kneeling upon the hearth building her fire; every morning she ate her breakfast in the nursery which had nothing amusing in it; and after each breakfast she gazed out of the window across to the huge moor which seemed to spread out on all sides and climb up to the sky, and after she had stared for a while she realized that if she did not go out she would have to stay in and do nothing—and so she went out. She did not know that this was the best thing she could have done, and she did not know that, when she began to walk quickly or even run along the paths and down the avenue, she was stirring her slow blood and making herself stronger by fighting with the wind which swept down from the moor. She ran only to make herself warm, and she hated the wind which rushed at her face and roared and held her back as if it were some giant she could not see.] But the big breaths of rough fresh air blown over the heather filled her lungs with something which was good for her whole thin body and whipped some red color into her cheeks and brightened her dull eyes when she did not know anything about it.
But after a few days spent almost entirely out of doors she wakened one morning knowing what it was to be hungry, and when she sat down to her breakfast she did not glance disdainfully at her porridge and push it away, but took up her spoon and began to eat it and went on eating it until her bowl was empty.
"Tha' got on well enough with that this mornin', didn't tha'?" said Martha.
"It tastes nice to-day," said Mary, feeling a little surprised herself.
"It's th' air of th' moor that's givin' thee stomach for tha' victuals," answered Martha. "It's lucky for thee that tha's got victuals as well as appetite. There's been twelve in our cottage as had th' stomach an' nothin' to put in it. You go on playin' you out o' doors every day an' you'll get some flesh on your bones an' you won't be so yeller."
"I don't play," said Mary. "I have nothing to play with."
"Nothin' to play with!" exclaimed Martha.
 "Our children plays with sticks and stones. They just runs about an' shouts an' looks at things."


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