Apple porridge

I often feel a bit of a hypocrite in the mornings as I make my daughters their porridge for breakfast. I’ve never been able to eat the stuff you see.

I love the idea of it; a big steaming bowl of hot porridge sounds the ideal way to set you up on a chilly day. And it’s just so good for you. You digest porridge slowly, so it fills you up for longer. High in fibre, oats are proven to prevent heart disease, lower cholesterol and boost serotonin.

My problem is the hot milk. I’m not good with hot, milky things and have never been able eat rice pudding or semolina. Even with hot chocolate I have to be in just the right mood, and it must be really good quality chocolate to distract me from the milk. And if there’s any skin on top – urrrgghh!

Lots of people have suggested ditching the milk and making porridge with water instead. But that’s always sounded rather mean and stingy to me. Then I came across an item in Runners World (can’t believe I mentioning that particular publication again!) which suggested using apple juice. Why had I never thought of that myself?

Porridge made with apple juice is my new favourite breakfast. It’s absolutely delicious and I feel just so virtuous eating it. I add currants, giving it a lovely crunchy fruitiness and mix in a little cinnamon, which of course goes so well with apple. Then I serve it with a decent dollop of yoghurt and a squeeze of runny honey. Perfect! The children like it too. But my husband’s a traditionalist and is sticking with his milk.

Apple porridge

Makes one large bowl

4og porridge oats
200ml apple juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Handful of currants
2 tbsp natural yoghurt

I don’t have that much time in the mornings, so I make my porridge in the microwave. Simply put the oats, juice, cinnamon and currants into a microwaveable bowl, give it a good mix and place in the microwave. Cook on medium power for a couple of minutes and then stir. Cook again for another two, maybe two and a half minutes, until you’ve got the porridgy consistency you’re after. I like mine pretty thick. Serve with a generous spoonful of yoghurt and lots of lovely honey. Yum!

Chocolate pancakes for Shrove Tuesday

Normally I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to pancakes: I like mine made simply from eggs, flour and milk, and served with nothing more than sugar and lemon. But when you start writing a food blog, some kind of transformation happens and you get all adventurous and creative, looking for new twists and takes on the old standards.

Last Pancake Day I made some sublime Lemon & Ricotta Pancakes adapted from a recipe in The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook by Mireille Guiliano, which helped me realise that change can be good.

I am currently in training for the Bath Half Marathon. (It takes place on 3 March, I’m running it for SWALLOW Charity and you can sponsor me here! Apologies – public service announcement over!) And because I’m in training I bought a copy of Runner’s World magazine about a month ago in the hope it might inspire me. Naturally, I turned directly to the recipe section and haven’t looked at another page.

I discovered in the magazine a wonderful array of healthy pancake recipes. Runner’s World food writer, Pam Anderson shares her basic virtuous pancake recipe, the perfect blend of carbs and proteins required by runners containing wholewheat flour, rolled oats and buttermilk, and then goes on to offer a whole host of variations on the theme.

I was rather intrigued by the chocolate version and so cooked up a batch last week. I made a few tweaks to the recipe, mainly to make them a little sweeter and lighter. Admittedly we ate ours as a pudding, topped with vanilla ice cream and winter berries, but we all thought they were absolutely delicious, if not quite as healthy as they really ought to have been. And if you’re looking for something different on Shrove Tuesday, particularly if you’re giving up chocolate for Lent, well this could be just the thing. Take a look too at the Runner’s World website where they have 40 more delicious pancake concoctions based on this same recipe.

Chocolate pancakes

Makes 16 small pancakes – serves 8

150g plain flour
100g wholewheat flour
30g rolled oats
75g caster sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
20g cocoa powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
285ml buttermilk
195ml milk
2 eggs
2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus more for frying
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Combine the two flours, oats, sugar, salt, baking powder, cocoa and bicarbonate of soda in a large bowl.

Gently whisk together the buttermilk, milk, eggs, oil and vanilla extract, pour into the dry ingredients and mix everything together well. Finally stir in the chopped chocolate.

Heat a little oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. When the pan is hot, pour in a small amount of the batter – to form a small pancake roughly 10cm across. Depending on the size of your pan, you’ll probably be able to cook two or three at a time.

Fry the pancakes for around two to three minutes on each side, and then keep warm while you continue working your way through the remaining batter.

I served ours with winter berries and vanilla ice cream. Whipped cream, chopped nuts, sliced banana, honey and maple syrup would all make scrummy alternatives.

If you liked this, you might also like:

Lemon and ricotta pancakes
Lemon and ricotta pancakes