That's brandy pooling round the edge of the bowl, by the way, not melted butter. Wait, which is more concerning first thing in the morning? Don't think I'd be above adding melted butter to my porridge. It's only one step removed from apple crumble topping.
Despite being shackled with a dull, greyish-beige colour and a name that implies the theme of Coronation Street tolls for ye (or indeed, the theme of the eponymous prison-set show) there is a lot to love about porridge. It's cheap. It sustains. It's warm. You can cook it pretty quickly. It contains such good things as - according to Wikipedia - fibre, protein, iron and magnesium. And I also have this thing where, if I make porridge, I feel like I don't have to do the dishes right away - just fill the oaty pot with water and leave it sitting in the sink for the rest of the day.
One way to make your morning porridge distinctly less greyish-beige is to topple spoonfuls of sultanas soaked in a syrup of sugar and liquor over it. What pushed me towards such sybaritic early-morning behaviour is a recipe in the Floriditas cookbook, Morning Noon and Night. Floriditas is a beautiful cafe in Wellington. Tim and I would eat there all the time if we could afford it. Till that time comes, we can eat like them whenever I make recipes from their cookbook. Morning Noon and Night's recipe calls for Pedro Ximinez sherry to soak your dried fruit in, and not having any of that, I used quince brandy. I realise quince brandy itself is a fairly specialised ingredient, but I believe regular sherry or brandy, Marsala, Cointreau or Grand Marnier, probably some whiskys or bourbons, or nigh on any liqueur or fortified wine (maybe not Midori though) would be lush as a substitute.
If you're wanting to make quince brandy, because if you move fast you should still be able to get hold of some, all you have to do is chop up the fruit (don't bother to peel or anything) and tip into a kilner jar or similar. Add a cinnamon stick and top up with brandy (as cheap as you like) then leave in a cupboard for about 6 weeks. It tastes and smells amazing, and the recipe comes from Nigella Lawson's significant book How To Be A Domestic Goddess.
Porridge with Pedro Ximinez (or whatever) Raisins (or sultanas)
Note: I used sultanas, because, even though they look exactly the same as raisins, I just prefer them. But, showing what being a Nigella acolyte can do to you, I also included some golden raisins, which for some reason I can deal with because they look so pretty. I get mine from Ontrays in Petone, but please don't feel your breakfast is a failure if you only use regular ones.
250g raisins or sultanas
190mls Pedro Ximinez sherry; or more or less whatever you like, I used Quince Brandy
Dissolve the sugar and water in a small pan, then boil for about 5 minutes till thick and slightly golden. Watch carefully. Place the raisins in a bowl, pour over the syrup and refrigerate till cool. Then add the alcohol, mix well, and either transfer to jars or a container and refrigerate again. Leave as long as you can - these just get better with time.
1 cup porridge oats soaked overnight in 1/2 a cup water (soaking optional)
At least 3/4 cup water
Good pinch salt
Good pinch cinnamon
Place the oats, water, salt and cinnamon in a saucepan and bring to the boil, continuing to cook (stirring continuously) till thick and creamy. Please use this amount of water as a guide only - depending on your oats and your preference, you may need way more.
Pour into two bowls, top with spoonfuls of the raisins and a little syrup.
This is so delicious - the soaking makes the oats soft and creamy despite only water being used, the cinnamon brings warmth of flavour to the potential dullness of the oats, and the soft, swollen fruit releasing a small burst of gently alcoholic syrup into your mouth with every bite. And as long as you're a bit prepared the night before with the syrup and the soaking and everything, it comes together in bare minutes. If you're not down with ingesting a tiny bit of alcohol first thing in the morning - and that's completely up to you - some equally excellent options could include replacing the sherry with orange juice, or doing away with it entirely, doubling the sugar and water, and adding a good spoonful of vanilla extract or a generous dusting of ground cinnamon.
The sultanas would probably make decent gift for someone - they can be employed in many different ways, in cakes, on yoghurt, in puddings, or as we did last night, over ice cream. Mum, my godmother and my godmother's sister (that sounds complicated and austere, think of them as aunties) came down to Wellington for the weekend and Tim and I had them over for dinner last night. Mum turned up with a purple cauliflower and a block of butter, which some people might not think is a very good gift, but most people aren't me. Both were received with much excitement. It has been a really lovely time catching up with them and seeing Mum again although her visit came with some sad news - Rupert, the cat we got in 1997 from my Mum's sister who wasn't allowed cats at her then-house, had been put down after a his longterm nose cancer got the better of him. I loved that cat so much and in his fourteen year stay with us he outlived so many other co-pets that it almost seemed like he'd just carry on living forever. His surprising appetite, his ability to warm a lap, and his look that suggests that he can understand how much you love him but he doesn't care anyway because he's a cat and that's how he does, will all be missed hugely by me.
RIP Rupert. This is our last photo together, when we got back from our holiday overseas two weeks ago (yes, I added the black and white to make it more dramatic, but still. Look at the disparity between our enjoyment of this moment. That's classic Rupert.)
Title via: How Did We Come To This, the final song in Andrew Lippa's The Wild Party, the musical which has the heavy honour of introducing me to both Idina Menzel and Julia Murney back in 2005. If you ever suspect you could be into musical theatre, this might well be the cast recording that confirms that for you.
Treme Song by John Boutte - it's a rare, rare soundtrack that I make the effort to find, but a few - like the music from the TV show Treme - are better than your average unnecessary cash-in attempt. This song is just so good, and I was reminded of that when we had book group on Friday at the lovely Kate's house and it accompanied our discussion of Confederacy of Dunces (and other things).
Next time: Mum brought down a massive box of feijoas from Nana's tree (thanks Nana! And your tree!) and my godmum Viv told me about how she replaced the dates in a sticky date pudding with feijoas...and I think I have to try replicate that immediately. Either that, or something featuring purple cauliflower.