Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Perfect Porridge

So Benn and I went to Caffé Cortilé in Block place on Saturday for a late breakfast. While we waited for our food we entertained ourselves by sending random Bluetooth messages to other Saturday morning breakfasters commenting on their coffee and asking what food was good to order. I never knew this game existed. It’s good having tech nerds as friends.

Benn ordered the Eggs Atlantic, which looked to me like a small serve for $13.50 but he said they were very good and the balance of Hollandaise and Balsamic was just right.

I had my usual – Porridge – and by God, I think I’ve found porridge paradise.
The porridge usually comes prepared with water and cream but I asked for my usual Skim Milk and the flavour didn’t suffer in the least.
It was served HOT. This seems to a basic element of porridge preparation that is just too hard for most eateries to comprehend.
It was a perfect grainy consistency – still rough and oat-like and neither too soupy nor Clag glue-like.
The berry compote was sweet and warm (thank God someone understands that this is essential).
It was sweetened with Vanilla Honey! Did you get that? Vanilla Honey! Sweet god of culinary goodness.

The café is in a cute, covered alleyway but is itself neither cute nor particularly cool. The clientele were mostly upper middles with some young trendies thrown in for colour. Benn and I were probably the coolest people in the place but, to be honest, what Caffé Cortilé lacks in eliteness it makes up for in its mastery of The Porridge (I may love the dirty, dingy mess that is Degraves but you couldn’t pay me to eat the soupy slop they try to pass off as porridge). At $8.50 a pop it errs on the side of expensive but, once again, the quality makes it a reasonable sum to part with. Just don’t ask for Diet Coke too or you’ll be walking out $12.40 poorer.

The Porridge Manifesto (or something)

Now porridge is an interesting dish. Seemingly simple and uncomplicated, a good bowl of porridge is warm comfort itself. But it is not as simple a meal to get right as one may think. There are a number of factors that must be considered when preparing the perfect bowl of this most underestimated of breakfast foods.

Type of porridge
While quick oats may be good enough for on-the-fly at home preparation, when I pay upwards of $5 for my porridge, I expect good quality rolled oats that maintain their roughness and don’t resemble a slimy sludge once heated. Rice porridge is also a good alternative for the gluten-intolerant, as is plain white rice heated with milk.

Type of milk
This is very much a personal preference and for me the ideal is hot water with a little skinny milk. But full cream milk, soy milk, cream or coconut milk are just as good, if a little less kind on the Tsubis.

Hot, hot, hot! There is NO excuse for lukewarm porridge. None. That is all.

Embellishments – a subject worthy of its own list.
- Due to the current banana crisis, my favourite porridge additive has been unvaryingly impossible to come by so I’ve been branching out into the world of fruit compotes. These vary greatly in palatability and are therefore a risky addition to what may otherwise be a perfect bowl of porridge. Too sour and they require a mountain of sugar to redeem the flavour of the dish. Too cold and they mess with the delicate balance of temperature. But if done right, a good fruit compote will add a new element to the porridge and help bring out its grainy goodness.
- Honey and cinnamon – old favourites that never go out of style.
- Brown sugar – not as good as honey, in my opinion, but for those that find honey too sweet it adds a pleasant and unassuming flavour.
- White sugar – One word… No.
- Nuts & grains – Flaked almonds are excellent under any circumstances. Quinoa is also good for those wanting to feel like they’ve eaten something really healthy.
- Chocolate – belongs in a croissant, not on your cereal.