Winter Warmer Apple, Date & Almond Porridge

It’s blooming freezing outside but joy of joys it’s been snowing. So before heading out into the winter wonderland a warming, hearty breakfast is a must.

This porridge is a triumph. Apple cubes partner perfectly with earthy, warming cinnamon. And all topped off with chopped nuts and deep amber maple syrup. Heaven.

This will have you warmed through and ready to face the chilliest of days.

Winter Warmer Porridge

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • A big cup of porridge oats
  • Milk (dairy or non-dairy)
  • 1 apple, chopped
  • 6-8 dates, chopped
  • A big handful of almonds, chopped
  • Maple syrup

Method

  • Pop your oats into a pan and pour over enough milk to cover them. Cook over a medium heat, stirring every now and then. Add more milk if it’s getting too thick.
  • Meanwhile chop your apple and pop them, along with the dates, into the pan so that they warm through with the porridge.
  • Once everything is nicely cooked, pour or dollop into bowls, sprinkle with the chopped nuts and drizzle with maple syrup.
  • Feel the warmth radiate.

A Kind of Shakshuka (eggs cooked in spiced tomato sauce with feta)

One of my loveliest friends recently gave me a wonderful cook book by Madeleine Shaw. I sat down one rainy day this week with a mug of tea to devour the pages.

You won’t be surprised that a Shakshuka recipe caught my eye. Ms Shaw’s is a green version, packed with nourishing veggies. As is often the case with me I set out to rustle this up for lunch only to discover I didn’t have half of the ingredients I needed. Fail to prepare and prepare to fail blah blah blah.

Gladly, I’m not so weak as to be grasped by failure’s clutches at the first hurdle. Or rather I was really hungry and had already gathered the eggs and feta in anticipation.

So this delicious lunch is a hybrid Shakshuka. The eggs are cooked in a deeply delicious tomato sauce but there is a lovely bit of spinach tipping it’s hat to the glorious green Shakshuka that never was.

Serve this with toast, my top choice bring sourdough, but any kind of bread will add the requisite crunch and of course, the means to scrape up every last bit of this saucy delight.

Final note: when I was finishing this off I scattered over a bit of fresh thyme, simply because I have some growing rampant on the window sill. I also sprinkled a pinch of sumac and chilli flakes over the eggs just before serving. All 3 of these are completely optional. If you don’t have them hanging around your kitchen this will still be glorious. And if you decide to play around with the flavours let me know how it turns out.

Shakshuka (eggs in spiced tomato sauce with feta)

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • About a tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon of chilli powder (optional)
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes
  • A couple of handfuls of spinach, chopped (or use a couple of frozen spinach blocks)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 pack of feta, roughly chopped or crumbled up
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • A couple of pinches of chilli flakes
  • A couple of pinches of sumac

Method

  • In a frying pan that has a lid, heat your olive oil over a medium heat and fry your onions until they are nice and soft. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
  • Stir in your spices then pour over the tomatoes.
  • If you’re using frozen spinach you can chuck that in too.
  • Let your sauce simmer away gently for about 10 – 15 minutes to let all the flavours come together and the sauce thicken. Give it a stir every now and then.
  • Add a little salt and pepper (and the spinach if you’re opting for fresh rather than frozen) to the sauce then make 2 little wells in your sauce and crack the eggs in.
  • Pop a lid on the pan and simmer gently for about 7 minutes or until the eggs are cooked to perfection. I like mine with a runny yolk.
  • Now just scatter over the feta and thyme. If you like you can pop the lid back on for a minute so that the feta warms slightly.
  • Serve with a little pinch of sumac and chilli flakes if you fancy and, of course, a pile of hot buttered toast.

A nice Cup Of Chai. My perfect way to Start The Day

A nice cup of Chai

My ideal way to start the day is, hands down, with a hot cup of chai tea. I love all kinds of tea but chai is my morning go to and I always have a full tin of chai teabags in my cupboard.

When the weekend comes around, however, I elevate my chai indulgence to the next level with my spicy homemade chai. This tantalises the taste buds with the delicious warmth of cinnamon and ginger, the deep and meaningful notes of cardamom and clove and is kicked up a notch with black peppercorns.

As this simmers away on the stove the house is infused with its deliciously comforting fragrance. For a morning cuppa verging on a hug in a mug, I sometimes make this with half water, half milk. I always add a generous spoonful of golden honey.

Try playing around with all of these ingredients, adding more of things you love or pulling back on the elements you aren’t so keen on.

Homemade Chai Tea

Makes 2 big mugs

Ingredients

  • About 700ml water
  • 1 cinnamon stick, snapped in half
  • About 2cm of ginger, sliced
  • 3 or 4 cloves
  • 5 peppercorns
  • 4 cardamom pods, gently bashed to release their inner aromas
  • 1 teabag (black tea is perfect for this but Rooibos also works well)

Method

  • Put all of your ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil.
  • Pop a lid on your pan and simmer for at least 5 minutes. I like to leave it a little longer but 10 – 15 minutes should do it.
  • Add your teabag, turn off the heat and leave for 3 – 4 minutes to steep.
  • For a little morning sweetness you can add honey or sugar. Remember to use a tea strainer to pour into your cup. You can serve with or without milk (plant or dairy).
  • Retreat to a cosy spot, sip and let the warming spices wash over you.

Classic Tomato Soup

Sometimes you just can’t beat a comforting bowl of tomato soup, no matter what the weather. I used to enjoy a bowl of soup from a can when I was a child in the 70’s but homemade soup is the ultimate comfort food if you ask me. Plus it’s quick, easy and full of healthy stuff.

I find this is especially satisfying to the soul, and the stomach, if I add a thick slice of fresh crusty bread and maybe a wedge of mature cheddar.

If you’re watching the calories don’t bother frying the veg, just put all the ingredients (except the milk) in a pan and simmer away. It genuinely tastes just as wonderful.

Classic Tomato Soup Recipe

Makes 4 large bowls or 6 medium sized bowls

Ingredients

  • A tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • About 200g of carrots, peeled or scrubbed and chopped
  • About 100g of potato, peeled and chopped
  • 800ml of stock
  • 2 bayleaves
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon each of oregano and basil
  • A generous splash of milk (or cream if you’re feeling indulgent)

MEthod

  • Fry the onion, carrot and garlic gently in the oil for about 5 minutes.  Add the potato to the mix, and continue to cook for a few minutes, at which point the starchy spuds will probably have started to stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • Pour in the tomatoes and bay leaves, stir. Add your hot stock and simmer, with a lid on your pan, for about 20 minutes until the veg is tender.
  • Fish out the bay leaves, pour in the milk if you’re using it, and blend the soup.  Have a wee taste and season with salt and pepper if you think it needs it.

To serve try one, or all, of these…

  • This would be nice with chopped fresh basil
  • Thickly sliced crusty bread and butter
  • Oatcakes and cheese
  • A swirl of basil or chilli oil