Sunday, June 2, 2013

Porridge - Millet and spiced apple with chestnut cream and almonds

 Photo by Steve Shanahan

First published Canberra Times 8 May 2013. 

 It may seem a little weird, but the new food trend that’s burning through the twitter-sphere at lightning pace is porridge. This surprising trend not only includes your ordinary old Quaker’s Oats, but ancient grains of all descriptions, cooked in every which way. 

It just so happens that I was born with a porridge spoon in my hand, so I’m completely comfortable with this, but some of you, perhaps those who went to boarding school, may have an aversion to this sticky, goopy substance. And that’s okay, because in the new porridge world, there’s something for everyone. 
As a spinoff, trendy porridge restaurants are popping up in many cities with many variations on a theme, and food vans are hawking their grains to cold, grateful punters hungrily demanding steaming bowls of congee, jook and porridge. 

Café Grød, (Grød is Danish for, you guessed it, porridge) is a hip new establishment that has opened in a trendy suburb of Copenhagen. Grød is leading the way with its informal atmosphere and all-things-porridge menu. The Danes are lapping up this cheap, organic, peasant fare, and in true Goldilocks style, porridge aficionados are rolling in for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The specialty at Grød is spelt porridge with apple and toasted almonds topped with a chestnut puree.  

Open your mind to porridge and you’ll be rewarded by a huge range of grainy possibilities to inspire your creative juices, from buckwheat, rice, semolina, millet, barley, quinoa, oats, spelt, to the lesser known teff, amaranth, tapioca and all kinds of ground legumes.  Add any number of things including milk, cream, butter, water, stock, meat, coconut milk, fruit, nuts, spices, fish, sugar, honey or syrup to construct your own gourmet style creations.  

Inspired by the seasonal creamy, fresh chestnuts appearing at this time of year and with a nod to Grød, I whipped up a millet and apple porridge with chestnut cream and almonds ready to reheat for a chilly weekday morning. Pre-made jars of chestnut puree are available from delis or the Essential Ingredient for about $14, otherwise make your own. It’s a bit fiddly but not difficult.

½ cup uncooked millet
1⅓ cups water
1 granny smith apple, peeled, cored and diced
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
pinch clove
maple syrup, to taste
4 tbsp toasted almonds
¼ cup chestnut puree
¼ cup pouring cream

Combine millet, water, apple and spices together in a sauce pan. Stir and bring to a boil and cover and reduce down to a simmer. Let cook for fifteen to twenty minutes until millet and apple is cooked and tender. Stir and check occasionally while cooking, adding extra water as needed if the mixture is too thick. When almost done, add a drizzle of maple syrup and taste. Start on the low end (a teaspoon or two) and continue until you’ve reached a desired sweetness.
Place the cream and chestnut puree in a small jug and mix together. Warm in the microwave.
Remove from the heat and serve with a large dollop of the warmed chestnut cream and slivers of toasted almonds.