There’s nothing quite like a warm, comforting bowl of porridge to bring a smile to your face on a cold winter’s morning. And Jamie absolutely loves the stuff, so we’re handing over to him for his ultimate porridge recipe. Plus you’ll get a little insight into an adorable Oliver family tradition.

THE OLIVER FAMILY RITUAL 

One of my earliest recollections of comfort food is also one of my earliest memories, full stop. I was about five years old and I’d been dropped off with my sister, Anna, to stay at my nan and grandad’s. They lived in a cute little bungalow, stuck to a budget, and cooked every single day. Because me and Anna lived in a pub, there wasn’t really a routine, but over at Nan and Grandad’s there was a real pattern to the day, starting at 7am sharp with Nan’s ritual of proper porridge-making.

Anyway, back to the porridge making. Nan’s porridge was like nothing I’d ever tasted before – having researched it, hers was a classic Scottish method, and it was delicious. It was about the same time that Ready Brek launched with a brilliant campaign where a kid went to school absolutely glowing after tucking into a bowl. Certainly, my nan’s porridge gave me a glow – it was on another level.

PERFECT PORRIDGE

Serves: 4
Total time: 20 minutes

You will need: 

1 big builder’s mug of coarse rolled large porridge oats, such as Flahavan’s
1 good splash of whole milk or cream

Proper porridge should take around 18 minutes from start to finish. For four people, add 1 big builders cup of coarse rolled oats to a high-sided pan with 3 cups of boiling water and a pinch of salt. However you want to flavour or finish your porridge, it’s important to start with water, as milk often scalds or boils over and doesn’t smell or taste great when it does. Place the pan on a medium heat until it starts to boil, then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes, or until thick and creamy, stirring regularly, and adding a good splash of whole milk or cream towards the end to enrich the porridge and make it super-luxurious. 

AND NOW FOR THE BEST BIT 

Nan would never be rushed when she made porridge, and all those torturous minutes later it would be poured almost an inch thick into wide soup bowls and given to Grandad, Anna and me. We’d go to tuck in straight away, but Grandad always stopped us, so I’m going to stop you now. It’s important to wait another 3 minutes for the residual chill of the bowl to slightly cool down the porridge from the outside in, so it remains soft, silky and oozy in the middle but goes almost firm and jellified around the edges. 

Grandad would always sprinkle his porridge with granulated brown sugar and insist that you wait a minute and a half for it to pull out the moisture from the porridge and turn it into a bizarrely impressive caramelly glaze. I loved this, but I couldn’t help opting for a good spoonful of golden syrup instead. What I found extraordinary was the way that over a couple of minutes, with a little jiggling of the bowl, the syrup would always creep down around and underneath the porridge, elevating it as if it were some sort of floating island. It baffles me to this day how that works, but I love it.

We’d then marvel as Grandad got out a butter knife and cut the porridge into a checkerboard. He’d then pick up a pitcher of cold whole milk and ease it to one side of the bowl, gently pouring so it filled up every crack of the checkerboard like some crazy paddy-field drainage system. Then, and only then, were we given the signal to attack. And I have to say, that porridge is as good a breakfast as I’ve ever had.


OTHER IDEAS FOR SERVING PORRIDGE 

The possibilities are endless… 

  • Quarter a few figs or any stone fruit, roast or fry with honey, then spoon over your porridge. 
  • Smash up and fold through some quality chocolate for a rare treat that’s to die for. 
  • Sprinkle seasonal berries with a little sugar and lemon juice, break a few up with a fork and stir through the porridge, or do exactly the same but simmer the berries in a pan first to create a delicate compote to stir through. You could also achieve a similar effect by heating some sour apricot jam
  • I also like to lightly toast some sunflower, sesame and poppy seeds, crush them in a pestle and mortar with a pinch of ground cinnamon, mix them with some chopped dried fruit, then fold through. 
  • Or even take the latter combo, cook it fairly thick, pour it into an oiled tray about 2.5cm thick, leave to set, cut into bars, and the next day, fry them in a little butter until golden and crispy on all sides, then serve with yoghurt and honey. Delicious.

For more inspiration for delicious toppings, check out our ideas here.

This has been adapted from Jamie’s Comfort Food. Jamie’s Comfort Food by Jamie Oliver is published by Penguin Random House © Jamie Oliver Enterprises Limited (2014 Jamie’s Comfort Food) Photographer: David Loftus