I am fickle about many things, but never breakfast. Even when I have been through phases of not eating meat, limiting carbs and doing just about every diet imaginable, I have never, ever considered skipping breakfast. For me, the day does not begin until I have had, at the very least, a cup of strong tea and something small to eat. In recent years I have reluctantly embraced brunch, but found waiting until late morning to eat a bit of a struggle. I just need a jump-start like you wouldn’t believe. It comes, as many things often do, from childhood. My mum was adamant that breakfast was the most important meal of the day, and we were not allowed to go anywhere without having something to eat first. It is a habit that has stuck.
Breakfast during the working week is usually something that can be prepared and eaten very quickly as, let’s face it, none of us give ourselves enough time in the mornings. Toast is my default option of choice, mainly because I can eat it whilst walking around the house (a habit that my husband despises); or cereal that can be eaten quickly. At the weekends there is much more time to make something delicious that can be lazily devoured over the newspaper supplements. Only under very extenuating circumstances will I have breakfast at my desk.
I can just about manage porridge, although I no longer have a microwave, so it does require a bit of watching and stirring, which is a bit of a drag. Recently I read a blog post on baking oats rather than boiling them, and became intrigued about how this could work in the morning. The basic principle for this is that the liquid (milk) and flavourings are added to the oats in the same way, but cooked in the oven for about half an hour rather than in a pan for a few minutes. Yes, it does take longer this way, but it doesn’t need any further attention after the oven door has closed. If you can bear to get up early enough, you could pop this in the oven and go back to bed (provided you had a reliable enough alarm clock to get you up afterwards!)
This particular porridge is cooked in a mixture of milk, golden syrup and egg. The syrup gives it some much-needed sweetness (I still cannot abide plain porridge) and the egg sets it a little in the dish. You can add just about anything you like to the mixture; mine contains half a punnet of blueberries that I had left in the fridge and the last of the brazil nuts, left over from the double espresso and Brazil nut cake I made last week. Use very ripe blueberries if you can as they disintegrate in the oven to form little jammy pockets within the oats. Finely chopping the brazil nuts gives them the grainy texture of coconut, which works well with the softness of the porridge.
For the second batch of this porridge, I made it the night before and reheated it the following morning in the oven for 10 minutes with a splash of milk. It wasn’t quite as good as cooking it fresh, but it does save you 20 minutes. You win some, you lose some.
Blueberry and Brazil Nut Baked Porridge
150g rolled oats
Large handful of brazil nuts, finely chopped
125g ripe blueberries
85g golden syrup
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1 large egg
435g whole milk
30g melted butter
1½ tbsp coarse Demerara sugar
Preheat the oven to 175ºc. Lightly grease a large baking dish with butter. Scatter in the oats, Brazil nuts and blueberries.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the golden syrup, salt, cinnamon, egg, milk and melted butter until smooth. Pour over the oats mixture and gently stir to ensure everything is evenly distributed.
Sprinkle over the Demerara sugar and bake in the oven for 30 minutes, until just set.