Book Club Tuesday: The New Porridge

The comedian, Stephen Fry, once said: “Nothing in this world is as it seems. Except, possibly, porridge.” Good for a small chuckle but I think he’s been eating the wrong porridge! Not difficult to cook but seemingly easy to ruin I think that oatmeal/porridge gets a bad rep. For me, the answer to almost any hunger question is truly: porridge! A versatile dish that can be eaten any time of day or any way, hot or cold, sweet or savoury, you don’t even need to cook it (if we’re talking about using oats).  I think this is where Leah Vanderveldt’s newest book, The New Porridge, enters in. Going far beyond the realm of just your run-of-the-mill oat-y oatmeal she explores the ways in which different grains (from barley to quinoa) can be used to achieve a healthful, delicious meal (she goes far beyond breakfast too).

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chia Pots, p. 104

Her first book, The New Nourishing, is one of my all-time favourites because it’s full of delicious, low-stress recipes that make everyday cooking a breeze. Similarly The New Porridge is also full of delicious, low-stress recipes. Vanderveldt spends the beginning of the book on the basics (from soaking and sweetness to cooking times and reheating) and she takes the time to discuss the uses of different grains as well as grain-alternatives (sweet potato, squash, lentils, seeds, etc). For anyone new to DIY breakfasts she also gives great recipes for how to make your own nut milk, nut butters, and granolas. Speaking of which she doesn’t limit her toppings to just granola either — imagine porridge topped with warming roasted fruit, compotes, or pesto!  Her recipes are firmly plant-based (most often vegan-suitable with lots of gluten-free offerings) with easy to source ingredients.

As I started to post photos of some of the gorgeous bowls that I’ve made from the book I got several questions regarding cooking times — are her porridge recipes time-intensive? I would say that all depends on the type of grain/grain-alternative you use. So with her recipe for Banoffee Oats it cooked up as quick as a blink (around 10-15 minutes) and the Date Toffee didn’t take much longer either; whereas her barley-based porridge recipes can take around 45 minutes (not including the soak-time). The beauty of her recipes (all of the ones I’ve tried so far) is that you can make it ahead of time (think: night before) and reheating is simple. With most grains they’ll soak up extra liquid during storage so you may need to add a little extra while re-heating — she gives all this information at the beginning of the book  (I just used my microwave). Since I like to mix it up and not eat the same thing every morning, I found that 3-4 servings of porridge was a bit much for me so I just halved all of the recipes I tried. I think it’s the versatility of this book that makes it such a keeper.

Barley Porridge w/ Brussels Sprouts topped w/ blue cheese and toasted walnuts, p. 132

The book is divided into sections — The Basics of Porridge Making, Basic Recipes and Toppings, Sweet & Warming, Cold & Make Ahead, Savoury & Cosy, and Suggested Pairings. While compact, the book is a comprehensive guide to anything porridge-related. Her make ahead, cold recipes are great! Both her Tiramisu Overnight Oat Parfait and her Chocolate Peanut Butter Chia Pots are such a treat. Even with the recipes that straddle the divide between breakfast and dessert (the parfait and chia pots I mentioned can be enjoyed as either) none of the “sweet” recipes really are that sweet. She makes such good use of naturally sweet ingredients such as bananas or dates and while erring on the side of less-sweet she really leaves the choice up to the home cook to decide how sweet they’d like it. Porridge is similar to a cup of coffee in that it can be customized in a multitude of ways.

My relationship with the dish is mainly a breakfast one but Vanderveldt’s savoury porridge recipes really opened my mind to having porridge for dinner. The Barley Porridge with Brussels Sprouts with it’s garlicky edge made for such a warming and wonderful meal. I’m still looking to try her Oat Porridge with Sage-Roasted Butternut Squash & Caramelized Onion and her Italian Polenta. Both of these recipes would make absolutely solid lunch/dinner choices but I feel like I could totally enjoy a bowlful of savoury porridge at breakfast too.

Just as with The New Nourishing I can already guess that The New Porridge will be on my 2018 gift guide! Appealing to any level of home cook her book reinvents what a bowl of porridge is and offers an excellent guide to creating nutritious grain-based meals. If you’re curious to see what I’ve been enjoying from this book check out the custom Instagram hashtag #thenewporridgeiseatworthy or my dedicated Facebook post. Not a morning person? This book might help with that too 😉

Banoffee topped w/ date toffee, DF yogurt, and cacao nibs, p. 71

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ryland, Peters, & Small for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

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