October 22, 2010 · 12 comments


in Vegetarian

“Let broth boil slowly, but let porridge make a noise.” (Irish Proverb)

A Meal of Porridge (1883) – Sir George Reid

Nothing can beat a steaming hot bowl of porridge for breakfast, or even lunch, on cold winter days. Not only is it a delicious way to start the day, it’s highly nutritious too.

Oats are among the healthiest of cereals. This is because they are high in fibre, containing a good balance of soluble and insoluble fibre. Soluble fibre is found in all fruit and vegetables but is particularly rich in oats. There is scientific research which suggests that soluble fibre from oats, when taken as part of a low fat diet can lower cholesterol and may help lower the risk of heart disease. Oats are naturally low in sugar, salt and saturated fat.


Porridge is one of the oldest Irish foods. Eaten for breakfast or supper, it could be made not just from oatmeal but from wheat or barley. It could be cooked with milk, buttermilk or water and flavoured with salt, butter or honey and in later years sugar.

The 7th century Brehon Laws regulated the types of porridge taken by the children of different classes who were being fostred:

The children of inferior grades are to be fed on porridge or stirabout made of oatmeal on buttermilk or water taken with old butter and are to be given a bare sufficiency; the sons of chieftains are to be fed to satiety on porridge made of barley meal upon new milk, taken with fresh butter, while the sons of kings and princes are to be fed on porridge made of wheaten meal, upon new milk, taken with honey.

In the 11th century tale Aislinge Meic Con Glinne, the hero dreamed of “fair white porridge made of sheep’s milk” and of “porridge the treasure that is smoothest and sweetest of all”.

We seem to be in the midst of a porridge renaissance, with everyone from McDonald’s to top restaurants serving it. Supermarket shelves are crammed full of oat products, but before you are tempted by exotic-sounding, fast-cooking porridges, take note: making porridge is a serious matter.

My favourite oats are McCann’s steal cut and Flavahan’s large porridge oats. Of course by rights you should use a spurtle to stir your porridge, but a wooden spoon will do just fine.


Spurtles date from around the fifteenth century and they were originally a flat, wooden, spatula-like utensil, used for flipping oatcakes in a hot oven. Over time, this implement changed shape and began being used specifically for stirring porridge.

There are many ways to eat porridge, with fruit, salt, sugar, treacle etc etc. Me? I like my porridge drizzled with honey and a splash of double cream.

What is your perfect way to eat porridge?



Makes 2 generous portions:

  1. Before going to bed, boil two cups of water and two cups of milk in a pot, add one cup of oatmeal – for a nuttier flavour you can toast the oats beforehand.
  2. Stir until all the liquid has been absorbed.
  3. Turn off the heat, cover the pot and leave overnight.
  4. The next morning, bring oats to a brisk boil and cook until they are just tender and serve in your preferred way.
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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Rhyelysgranny October 22, 2010 at 12:34

What a lovely piece. It makes me want to run for the porridge pot and of course my spurtle :) Photos as always are gorgeous.
Rhyelysgranny´s last blog post ..Veda Bread


George@CulinaryTravels October 28, 2010 at 09:09

Thank you Brenda x


aforkfulofspaghetti October 22, 2010 at 16:22

Ah, lovely post. :)

I ‘switched’ to pinhead/steel cut oats last year, and I’d never go back. They make all the difference, IMHO. For speed, I tend to use Alford’s, but I have a tin of McCann’s to hand at all times ;) So good. And always with cream, obvy.
aforkfulofspaghetti´s last blog post ..A dark affair- chocolate- stout- and raisin cake


George@CulinaryTravels October 28, 2010 at 09:10

I’ve not tried Alford’s – will pick some up the next time I go shopping.


Sarah, Maison Cupcake October 26, 2010 at 08:00

I had some microwave sachets of Flahavans after they’d sponsored me going to Cybermummy conference in the summer and when you compare them with the Scotts sachets, they’re in a different league. The Scotts stuff swims in milk and is all watery yet you can make the Flahavans with skimmed milk and it comes out so creamy you’d swear it was full fat. All this in 90 seconds! I just wish I could buy the sachets in the shops here.
Sarah, Maison Cupcake´s last blog post ..Cured Beef Quesadilla- It’s a Kind of Sandwich


George@CulinaryTravels October 28, 2010 at 09:12

I really don’t like the Scotts porridge, it always seems to lack texture and be very ‘paste’ like.

I bought my Flahavans oats from Waitrose – not sure if they have the microwave sachets though (I don’t have a microwave so never looked).


Lucy October 27, 2010 at 19:28

Is it shameful to admit I have never tried porridge? :S But I have noticed the porridge renaissance and your post has me eager to get trying!
Lucy´s last blog post ..Apple and Cranberry Flapjacks


George@CulinaryTravels October 28, 2010 at 09:14

I can’t believe you’ve never eaten porridge Lucy. Do try it; if you don’t like it you can always use the oats for flapjacks etc :)


Choclette October 27, 2010 at 19:54

Yum yum, for me porridge is the ultimate comfort food, it takes me straight back to being a child, even though I still eat it regularly. The absolute best is still my mother’s made with oatmeal and water with a pinch of salt overnight in the aga and stirred with a spurtle – it is so creamy it doesn’t really need anything else, but if I have my way a spoonful of clotted cream on top takes it onto another plane
Choclette´s last blog post ..Chocolate and Love


George@CulinaryTravels October 28, 2010 at 09:15

Oooh clotted cream on porridge must be heavenly.


Brian Harding May 25, 2012 at 20:25

Hey thanks for the information, very interesting . I believe porridge is best eaten with full cream (straight from the cow) milk, and New Zealand Manuka or multi-flora honey, full of everything you need for a healthy start to the day.


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