In the old days, porridge was made only with oats – either rolled or steel cut or ground to oatmeal.
And while I still love nothing more than a steaming bowl of oaty goodness, today there is a terrific array of grains, many of which are gluten-free, which can be used for porridge.
Gluten-free grains like buckwheat, quinoa, rice, millet and polenta are packed full of complex carbohydrates and fibre giving you a slow release of energy to sustain you through the morning.
The benefit of varying your porridge, apart from the variety of taste, is the subtle nutritional differences each grain brings to the table … and your tummy.
Many of these grains also come flaked, which means they are quicker to cook, for those days you are short on time.
Keep it pure and simple and cook one kind of grain or create your own blend – think lychees, poached pears, stewed rhubarb, roasted quinces, rehydrated warmed prunes, honeyed walnuts, crushed almonds, shredded coconut, honeycomb, coconut sugar and fresh banana.
Here are my top other-than-oats porridge recipes, tips and serving suggestions.
Quinoa flakes make a super smooth porridge in just a few minutes. To cook, add 1/3 cup quinoa flakes, 2/3 cup coconut milk, 1/3 cup water to a small saucepan. Stir over a medium heat for a few minutes until the desired consistency has been achieved. Top with cinnamon, shredded coconut, almonds, sunflower seeds and fresh banana. Alternatively do as my husband does and add ½ a fresh banana and a handful of blueberries to the flakes and cook all together. His version is very thick and turns a fabulous blue-purple hue!
Quinoa grains make a more textured porridge than quinoa flakes. Bring 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water to the boil, then simmer, covered on a low heat for 25 minutes. I love topping this with a grounded blend of linseed, sesame seeds and almonds for a protein punch. A dollop of coconut yogurt is delicious stirred through at the end.
Buckwheat kernels alone make a robust porridge so I like to mix together a big blend of whole kernels with kernels I have pulsed a few times in the grinder to create a smooth porridge.
Buckwheat flakes are similar to quinoa flakes but have a different taste. They are quick to cook and are delicious with a sprinkling of cacao, cinnamon, some stewed apple and mint.
Rice flakes are readily available at supermarkets and you can whip them up in a flash. But beware! These flakes are really easy to overcook, so keep an eye on the pot, otherwise you end up with a pile of tasteless stodge. Rice flakes are good with bold flavours like plums poached in star anise or a sprinkling of chilli, cacao and sea salt.
Congee is a traditional Asian dish which I love for breakfast when I am feeling run down. Simmer 1 part white rice and 6 parts water in a saucepan with a teaspoon of Vegemite for about an hour, stirring often. Towards the end of cooking I like to add loads of grated ginger, some turmeric and garlic to spice up the rice.
I love polenta as porridge because its bright yellow grains add colour to the dark winter days. Add a drizzle of honey, a sprinkling of cardamon and some roughly chopped pistachio nuts and your tastebuds will be yelling for more. Polenta does need time to cook to a smooth consistency so save this for the weekend when you have more time.
Millet seeds have an interesting taste and texture. Add 1 part millet and 3 parts liquid (either water, your favourite milk or a combo of both) with a pinch of salt, cinnamon, vanilla extract and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 20-25 minutes depending on the consistency you are after. Roasted quinces and honey walnuts make a delicious topping with a sprinkling of roasted coconut flakes.
Dry frying millet flakes brings out some extra nuttiness. Cook 1 part flakes to 3 parts liquid in a saucepan for a few minutes. Goji berries, cacao nibs, and flaked coconut all make excellent toppings for this.