How to make porridge and the health benefits of oats

According to a study by Harvard University, wholegrains such as oats may be the key to living longer – so there’s no better time to perfect your morning bowl of warm, toasty porridge. We talk through the health benefits of this breakfast classic, plus share our ideas for technique and toppings...

How to make porridge the best breakfast ever

While the beauty of porridge is in its simplicity, there’s now another reason to love this most wholesome of breakfasts – according to a US study, people who eat plenty of oats and other wholegrains live longer and are less likely to die from heart disease. Our health editor, Roxanne Fisher talks us through the benefits of the unassuming oat…

Apple and sultana"All too often we’re led to believe the likes of chia, quinoa and other exotic sounding ingredients have the monopoly on the coveted ‘superfood’ title. However, countless studies have put the humble oat right up there with pricey health boosters. The cereal grain’s proven talents include helping to lower high blood pressure and reduce bad cholesterol – not to mention a packed portfolio of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Oats are also the go-to fitness food for beginners and athletes alike. A bowl of their slow-releasing, wholegrain goodness an hour before exercise ensures blood sugar levels remain steady through a workout, while providing enough energy to keep you going.

 
Their stellar credentials were boosted even further by a recent study in the US claiming people who ate a diet rich in wholegrains were about 15% less likely to die from heart disease, compared with people who opted instead for white and refined options.

A daily intake of about 3g is enough to be beneficial – so what are you waiting for? Our favourite way to enjoy oats is in a creamy bowl of porridge – find out how to make the ultimate pot and try out our tempting toppings…"

How to make the ultimate porridge

Start with the basics... the oats

Perfect porridgeOur food editor Cassie says the type of oats you choose for your porridge is really down to personal preference. Jumbo or rolled oats will give you a really chunky texture, but packets labeled as ‘porridge oats’ will generally contain a medium-ground oatmeal, which will allow for a fine, smooth texture, should that be your preference.

The liquid

Porridge can be made with just water, but if that sounds too much like austere gruel, stir in a touch of yogurt too. A more orthodox route is using regular, soya or nut milk with the fat content of your choice – or opt for a half water/half milk blend. Alternatively, use plain yogurt on its own, or go really luxe with coconut milk.

Perfect porridge with milk or water
Creamy yogurt porridge


The method

For a truly creamy porridge, employ a slow and steady approach. For optimum results cook on the hob – bring the liquid to the boil then turn down to a simmer for five minutes. If you’re a microwave devotee, cook for five minutes, keeping an eye out for any volcano-style milky eruptions.


Change it up

If you own a slow cooker, it’s an ideal vessel for creating a no-fuss breakfast. Assemble the porridge ingredients on an evening and wake up to perfection in a bowl. Robust, jumbo oats work best for this method.

Slow cooker porridge

BircherIf you don’t fancy something hot or want to eat on the go, a bircher is a satisfying alternative to traditional porridge. It will still take around five minutes to make as the jumbo oats are soaked in juice, but if you make a batch, it’ll keep in the fridge for a few days. If you really want to ramp up the nutrition factor, add a sprinkling of chia seeds and watch them expand.

Apple & blueberry bircher
Vanilla-almond chia breakfast bowl


Toppings and additions...

Flavourings

Give your porridge instant pizzazz by adding simple flavours. Nut butters such as almond, hazelnut or cashew give porridge a real hearty depth – just make sure you stir vigorously to dissolve any clumps. Try simple spice like cinnamon, nutmeg or mixed spice, added at the end of cooking, vanilla extract, creamed or dessicated coconut or a touch of jam.

Sweets for my sweet

Opt for honey, maple syrup or agave if you fancy a drizzle of liquid sugar, or add your favourite kind of granulated sugar either at the start of cooking, as a semi-melted topping or both.

Our five favourite porridge toppings…

Porridge with compoteCompote

Cassie is a firm advocate of using up whatever is in her fruit bowl when it comes to toppings. Apples, pears, cranberries and plums work well – simply stew with a little syrup or sugar.

Creamy porridge with spiced apple & cranberry
Spiced coconut porridge with cranberry & orange compote
Creamy yogurt porridge with apple & raisin compote

Fresh fruit

Banana, grated apple, thin slices of pear and blueberries are some of our favourite fruits to scatter unadorned on porridge, while our home economist Miriam likes roasted figs with thyme leaves and honey.

Creamy yogurt porridge with banana & blueberry porridge

Granola porridgeGranola

We’d never say no to two breakfasts in one, so granola-topped porridge is right up our street. Blitz a selection of nuts and seeds, plus tasty, sweet Medjool dates, then bake with a blend of maple syrup and olive oil. It’ll keep for a week and can be served with regular milk too.

Maple granola crunch porridge topping

Nuts

While the uniform silkiness of porridge is one of its charms, adding a bit of texture will create a new dimension. Crush your favourite nut to scatter on top – almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts or Brazil nuts fit the bill nicely.      

Nutritional boosters

Vitamin-packed seeds will add a satisfying crunch and healthy kudos to your breakfast bowl. Try linseeds, sunflower, pumpkin and chia seeds, or add dried fruit or goji berries when you’re out of fresh fruit.

Fruit & nut breakfast bowl        

Are you a porridge lover? What are your secret tips for making the silky stuff - and how do you serve it? We'd love to hear your ideas in the comments below... 

Comments, questions and tips

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misspeppcorn
26th Oct, 2016
30gms enough milk to cover two mins in microwave then a mix of berries or other fruit depending what I have in, my father always had a big pan on the go in winter for six of us always had sugar on though, but still enjoying it.
fizzh89
15th Oct, 2016
Our 8 year old son has shown some strange and difficult to manage behaviour problems over the last 5 months, and we have come to realise that it is connected to food. If we can get him to eat, his mood improves very quickly. Having kept detailed food and behaviour diaries for many weeks, we have noticed that if he eats bowl of Scott's porridge oats for supper, it almost guarantees that his behaviour will be pleasant the following morning. I had even commented to my husband just last week that I am tempted to write to the manufacturer to see if they can shed any light on why. I have done lots of reading around low GI foods and know that proper porridge oats are a good source. He is under investigation for an explanation (and hopefully a way of managing it) at the hospital. It would appear that they have not come across this problem before.
missimack
13th Aug, 2016
I use 40g of rolled oats, 180g milk, and usually a tbsp of nut butter. 2 minutes in the microwave at 800 W and it's perfect. Then it's just a matter of stirring in some honey and maybe a bit of fruit.
rd3d2
5th Jun, 2016
TIP: I use a deep bowl and cook porridge in the Microwave for 10 minutes flat. The deep bowl allows it to boil up the bowl as much as it likes without boiling over. Perfect porridge every time without the stirring
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Liamreilly848@g...
28th Oct, 2016
I have skimmed milk and 4 or 5 prunes. It has helped me to lose 6 stone in less than 12 months.
sunsetsimulation
10th Oct, 2016
Rolled up oats take forever to cook but I found an easy way to cook them quickly. Put your needed quantity in a small saucepan, cover with boiling water, cover the pan and leave to soak for 5min. Then add a generous splash of milk and cook on the hob for 2-5min until bubbling and your desired consistency.