Start The Day With A Good Breakfast

Bowl of oatmeal with caramelised fruit


Perhaps it was my mother’s stint at nursing college in Edinburgh, or her dubious MacGregor roots (she used to say she came from a long line of sheep-stealers – remember the film Rob Roy?) but she brought with her to our secluded Irish farm, a penchant for dressing us up in kilts (Royal Stewart and Black Watch tartan) and a determination that porridge feature frequently on my childhood breakfast menu, along with the daily dose of cod liver oil – a tablespoon in my orange juice to mask the taste… euch, some hope. We even had a spurtle to stir the oats with, sunwise of course, for luck.

Supermarkets here in Canada carry boxes and boxes of Quaker Oat So Simple, “a quick and convenient way of making perfect porridge in only two minutes”, in various flavours and back home in the UK there was Ready-Brek, a kind of babyfood for those who couldn’t remotely be described as babies anymore. I still remember the adverts promising a nucleo-thermal, full-body forcefield to anyone who began the day with a bowlful.

But making your own porridge, or oatmeal as it’s known here, is by far the healthiest and cheapest way and it’s neither difficult nor time consuming. You can experiment with different types of oats – we like McCanns steel cut Irish pinhead oats (me because, not only does each one ‘pop’ in your mouth when you chew, but they’re from a town close to where I grew up – Naas in Co. Kildare) and we’ve recently tried large flake wholegrain rolled oats which give a more defined appearance to the end result. Toasting the oats beforehand in a dry pan over a medium heat brings out their nutty flavour.

“Spare your breath to cool your porridge.”
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Cooking porridge is straightforward enough – follow the oats to water ratio on your packet or experiment to find your preferred ‘gloopiness quotient'; 1 part oats to 2 parts liquid is a good base to tweak from. The pinhead oats require soaking overnight with the lid on in freshly boiled water, but all that’s left to do in the morning is heat them through for 9-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, so they’re hardly a chore.

Traditionalists claim porridge must contain nothing more than oats, water and salt so that should be all the provocation you need to shake things up a little. Try mixing milk with the water (I find all milk a little too heavy first thing in the morning – only workable if you’re planning on not moving from the sofa for the next few hours – 1 part milk to 2 parts water is better). I still add salt even if I plan to sweeten, I think it helps the flavors stand out, but add it near the end. Salt can harden the oats and lessen their propensity to ‘cream up’, the bit when they release starch as they’re heating.

After bringing your oats and liquid to the boil while stirring frequently with a spurtle or the handle of a wooden spoon, turn down the heat and simmer, stirring every now and again, for ten minutes – add the salt midway. Finally, turn off the heat, cover and stand for five minutes before serving.

What you put in the finished product is up to you. A splosh of cold milk or cream girdling the mixture is a must in our house. My eldest daughter likes the crunch of brown sugar while my son prefers the smooth sweetness of honey. As a treat, some caramelised fruit goes down a storm! Recipe below…


Caramelised fruit


Caramelised Fruit


White sugar
Ground cinnamon, cloves and a pinch of black pepper
Star anise
A generous tablespoon of golden syrup
A glug of Amaretto
Chopped apples/pears
Cranberries (dried or fresh)
Nuts (broken walnuts, pecans, flaked almonds - whatever you like)


1. Cover the bottom of a dry pan with white sugar. Heat gently until the sugar starts to flush golden and add a knob of butter.

2.Throw in the cinnamon, cloves, black pepper and star anise, and stir in the golden syrup and Amaretto.

3. Add chopped apple, raisins/sultanas, cranberries, chopped/flaked nuts. A splash of apple juice at the end will loosen the mixture if it gets too stiff.


Spoon over porridge and DON’T BURN YOUR TONGUE!



  1. I’ve eaten the Quaker boxed stuff many times but never made my own oatmeal. Great recipe.

  2. I must confess that, despite trying many many times, I simply just cannot eat Porridge. My sister is a runner though and swears by the stuff.

  3. This looks delicious, you can’t beat porridge on a cold morning.

  4. That first photo sure makes porridge looks so very tasty :) I have never thought of making it myself, and would have assumed it’s much more difficult, so thanks for this enlightening post!

  5. Your photos are so yummy! But I don’t like porridge! Would love to cook for my kids!

  6. This looks delicious! Can’t wait to try x

  7. What a great recipe – looks utterly divine too with your wonderful photos. Would be great to make for our toddler :)

  8. OMG that looks delicious. Amazing photos…. porridge and dried fruit are my two most favourite foods int he world. Yes, I know that;’s odd!

  9. I’m going to pin this as I admit I’m a readybrek girl – thank you for sharing.

  10. Seriously? Oatmeal is porridge? How had I not realised this?!? We need to start speaking the same language :) looks lush by the way!!

  11. I love porridge and the caramelised fruit looks simply delicious, another one to bookmark!

  12. This looks scrummy! I love porridge when it’s hot, and also the cold overnight oatmeal, and this fruit would be delicious with both. Defo giving this recipe a try – thank you for sharing x

  13. Couldn’t agree more! If only I got such a good-looking breakfast all ready-made and waiting for me every morning! That would make it just perfect :-)

  14. I make porridge a lot but I had never thought about toasting the oats first.I’ll give that a try this week.

  15. I love everything oaty except porridge! My kids will eat it but only if it’s got a big dollop of golden syrup on it!

  16. This looks extremely healthy and a great way to start the day! My children love porridge but cold….on top of their usual cereal – odd!

  17. I always eat breakfast but never porridge. This has inspired me to give it a try. I’ll look out for some oats next time I go shopping.

  18. SO agree! Breakfast is the most important meal. This looks yummy! x

  19. That looks really, really delicious! I so agree, too, I can’t make it through the day without a good breakfast.

  20. I need to be more adventurous with my porridge. I’m a lump of chocolate spread kinda girl – it is yummy though ;’)



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