Phwaaaaaaah! It's cold out there. It's the middle of March and it's snowing. I'm not thinking salads and barbecue I'm desperately wanting porridge.
I do love porridge, the comfort of big bowls of steaming hot oats with syrup and cream, or brown sugar and butter, even granulated sugar and milk should not be underestimated. My mum would make them for us in winter in Australia - possibly didn't require a huge stockpile of raw oats! - but I recall that start to the day with a warm fug of pleasure. It was my dad who taught me to dot the top with brown sugar and butter, a habit the man still views with a kind of fascinated horror as he adds milk to his bowl.
Started eating hot porridge with serious intent in my first London winter, easy, cheap, healthy and a good way to come to terms with how short the days were, how little light was available, how cold the wind was. But even then it was only weekends and holidays, like everyone breakfast has to be quick and simple, requiring neither time nor attention from me. To make anything beyond coffee is simply too much faff. It's not that I think we're too busy for breakfast it's just too daunting a prospect to be that coordinated straight out of bed. Truth be told I am not a morning person....
Week day breakfast is really the least interesting meal of the day round ours. There might be cereal and milk, or, if I've got it together over the weekend, rhubarb with yoghurt. Two things in a bowl, eat, go. But Sunday, knowing that cold was coming, I wondered about trying something new. I had a fresh pack of Flahavan oats, an Irish brand that I discovered at a tasting with Bord Bia a while ago, that are wonderfully creamy thngs, so good in fact I once gave a kilo pack and a wooden spoon to a friend for Christmas - what can I say, some people are hard to buy for. At least it was a surprise.
I also had a Nigella recipe for breakfast bars, about which she says 'they are just like milk and cereal in bar form, so there's nothing to stop you nibbling at one with your morning coffee at home every day. If you are not a morning person, believe me, they will make your life easier.'
I didn't have a lot of the exact ingredients but did have similar.
Oaty Fruit & Nut Breakfast Squares
397 grams condensed milk - ie one standard tin
250 grams rolled oats (not instant)
75 grams desiccated coconut
100 grams dried apricots, roughly chopped
125 grams Mixed Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame)
125 grams natural unsalted mixed nuts – peanuts, brazils, almonds and walnuts
Preheat the oven to 130°C/gas mark 1/2, and oil a 23 x 33 x 4cm baking tin, or use a throwaway foil one.
Warm the condensed milk in a small pan over a low heat.
Meanwhile, mix together all the other ingredients and then add the warmed condensed milk, using a rubber or wooden spatula to fold and distribute.
Spread the mixture into the tin and press down with the spatula, fork or, better still, your hands (wearing disposable vinyl gloves to stop you sticking), to even the surface.
Bake for 1 hour, then remove from the oven onto a cooling rack. After about 15 minutes, cut into chunky squares and let them cool completely in the tin.
I am so very glad I made these, breakfast this week is new and different - grab just the one thing, eat and go!