Cold comfort: vanilla, date and chia porridge.

Thanks to 26 Grains and a legion of modern cooks, porridge has had a bit of a makeover since its gruel-like origins and is now a healthy diet staple. It’s low on the GI index, so it releases energy slowly. It’s cheap. And it’s a wonderfully nutritious blank canvas on which to celebrate whatever’s in season. On cold mornings, nothing says cosy more than a bowl of sweet, warm porridge buoyed up with aromatic winter spices. For something so simple – essentially just oats and milk, although you can try different grains to dial up the taste and texture – the possibilities with porridge are endless. Think of the ‘recipe’ below as a base from which you can add your own twists.

1 mug organic rolled oats
3 mugs milk of your choice (I use unsweetened almond)
1 tablespoon chia seeds
2 fresh dates, chopped
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla bean paste

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Put everything into a pan and gently bring to the boil. As soon as the mix starts to bubble, turn right down and stir constantly until it becomes rich and creamy. Spoon into bowls and top with whatever you have to hand – granola and seeds for a bit of crunch, berries for tart fruitiness and nut butter or coconut yoghurt for extra texture.

Ideas for toppings:

  • caramelised pear, figs and cashew butter
  • pecans, blackberries, raspberries, mint and maple syrup
  • blueberries, hazelnuts, granola and pomegranate seeds
  • sliced sharon fruit, coconut flakes and pumpkin seeds
  • banana, cinnamon and flaked almonds

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