The best winter breakfast

True to her Scottish roots, Carol Wilson says porridge is the best way to start the day...are you a fan of the humble oat?


OatsI love my morning porridge. On a chilly winter morning when there's an icy nip in the air, you can't beat a bowl of piping hot oats. I've tried instant oat cereals, but I found them to be too smooth and lacking texture. Nothing like the real thing!

Porridge has been around for hundreds of years, but now it's enjoying a resurgence of popularity as sales are soaring and the once humble breakfast dish can now be found on the menus of the poshest hotels.

It's not hard to see why - a pack of oats is inexpensive and porridge is easy to make in just minutes. And it's one of the healthiest ways to start the day. Oats are a great source of fibre and protein and have been proven to lower cholesterol. Because porridge is digested slowly it releases energy gradually into the bloodstream, so helps to keep you full for longer- and more able to resist sugary mid-morning snacks.

Scotland of course is the ancestral home of porridge and the Scots take their porridge seriously; each year the World Porridge Making Championship awards the world title to the porridge-maker judged to have made the best traditional porridge, using just oatmeal and water. The stirring is done in the time-honoured way with a straight wooden stick called a 'Spurtle' or 'Theevil'.

There's intense debate about how to make authentic porridge. Should the oats be soaked? Is it best to use water, milk or both? Should you add sugar or salt and a knob of butter? How long it should be cooked for is another source of disagreement, ranging from a few minutes or longer, to cooking overnight in the bottom of a very low oven. Personally I stick to the method I've used for years. I use twice the volume of milk and water to oats, a pinch of salt and cook slowly in a pan for 5-6 minutes.

HoneyIn Scotland hot porridge is traditionally eaten with cold milk and a sprinkling of salt; definitely nothing else! I have a sweet tooth so I'm partial to porridge with a good glug of cream and a liberal sprinkling of brown sugar or a generous drizzle of maple or golden syrup. If I'm feeling in need of something healthier I sweeten it with honey and add a few berries or some dried fruit. A quick poll among friends and family revealed that other added extras include a sprinkling of cinnamon or grated nutmeg, banana, toasted nuts, yoghurt, black treacle, stewed fruit, rosehip syrup and chocolate syrup. My Scottish dad liked to add a dash of whisky to his porridge on frosty mornings 'to keep out the cold'!

How do you like your porridge?