Food

A Bowl of Porridge

Thursday, April 12, 2012    

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I have been receiving many requests lately for porridge recipes. Let me confess right now, I am not a huge porridge expert. I don't mind making it, but I am just not crazy over eating porridge regularly. I can make a decent one, but not the best. My porridges don't have a wow factor like my mother's or some other people I know.

Secondly, people share with me how satisfied they feel after eating a bowl of porridge, but forgive me, I guess my stomach has a hole in it, because I feel ravenous an hour after eating porridge. Trust me, I am jealous of those individuals and wish that a bowl of nutrient and fibre-rich porridge could fill me up too.

Food is a very personal thing and reacts differently in each individual. My mother is a huge fan of porridge and everyone who visits our house loves her porridge creations.

Granted, Jamaica has a rich porridge culture, and as such there’s an array of delicious recipes. Give me a bowl of Jamaican-style porridge any day over any of its blander foreign cousins. Whether you indulge in oatmeal, cornmeal, green plantain, peanut, or hominy corn porridge, the texture must be made right for you and the flavours from our aromatic local spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg on point. It is a smooth pleasure going down your throat. Add some orange peel and vanilla or even almond extract, and it tastes even better. People have preferences, some use cow’s milk, others condensed and evaporated milks, or use powdered milk mixed with water. The lactose-intolerant and vegans use soy, coconut or nut milks like almond or grain milk such as rice or oat milks; there are so many choices and methods.

Some like a thin gruel, others prefer a thick texture; as for me, somewhere in-between, not too thick or too thin, is just right. I think it is for this reason I like hominy corn porridge. I like the mouth-feel of chewing the corn, I guess, and find it keeps me satiated for longer. I've quite enjoyed protein-rich peanut porridges in St Elizabeth, the parish of one-half of my roots. I think the whole soil to plate sensibility really comes home to me surrounded by so many peanut patches and fields. I know that men love it as it supposedly gives them a “strong back”, which Jamaican men are passionate about.

Porridge is a favourite of many children and a great breakfast option for them. It is easy to digest as well. In England, mum used to add a dollop of strawberry jam to my semolina, and I must say I did welcome a hot, steamy bowl of porridge in the winter — this was perhaps when I most appreciated porridge. There is a porridge choice out there for everyone and most people I know say their recipe is the best, or the porridge in question evokes a special feeling or memory. There are so many porridge tales to tell, but one thing we can agree on, it's a generational classic food item.

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Bon Appetit!

Yellow Pepper and Smoked Salmon Salad

This is off topic, but I had to add a salad this week since I get so many requests. This was actually a “buck up”. Sometimes you make one dish and are left with trimmings you don't want to waste. Well, this salad is a result of combining some salmon pieces I had left over from a quiche and a sweet pepper I had to use up. Both are not cheap ingredients (I find coloured sweet peppers to be far too expensive sometimes).

Ingredients:

Smoked salmon trimmings

1 yellow sweet pepper, sliced

1 salad tomato, diced

1/2 small red onion, sliced

Scotch bonnet (pepper) oil for drizzling

Method:

On a salad platter arrange the salmon, yellow pepper, tomato and red

onion as you like.

Drizzle with Scotch bonnet (pepper) oil.

Hominy Corn Porridge

This type of porridge is traditional. Today I am sharing a vegan/vegetarian-friendly version using coconut milk, but you can substitute with cow's milk.

Ingredients:

1 cup/200g hominy corn, soaked overnight in 4 cups/1 litre cold water

2 cups/500ml coconut milk, unsweetened

3 tbsps flour

6 tbsps water

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cinnamon stick

pinch of salt

brown sugar, to taste

generous grating of nutmeg

Method:

Drain off water from hominy corn which has been soaked overnight.

In a medium-sized pot, bring coconut milk with vanilla and cinnamon stick to boil over medium heat.

Add hominy corn to coconut milk.

Make a paste with the flour and water and add to the pot, and stir through. This will add in the thickening process of the porridge.

Add a pinch of salt, then add brown sugar to taste, continue cooking for 10 minutes over medium to low heat.

Next, add a generous grating of nutmeg and mix well and cook for five minutes more.

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