I’m sorry, the recent cold snap is all my fault. I was the one who said winter was over; I was the one who ignored the merino tights sale and who figured my daughter’s ever-shrinking raincoat would last out the year. Rest assured I have been paying for my folly. Last weekend, while running in four layers (vest, long-sleeved running top, Icebreaker, rain jacket) plus hat, plus beanie, plus husband’s gloves, all I could do was think about the steaming bowl of porridge I was going to have when I got home and my hands defrosted enough to stir the pot. The temperatures have since returned to double figures (just), but I’m not going to take any chances.

Apple and almond porridge
I find the easiest way to do this on busy mornings is to get it going over low heat and let it bubble away while I get ready for work/chivvy child out of bed/make lunches. If you’re not a morning person, you can start this the night before – just put all the ingredients in a pot and leave it somewhere cold until the morning. In the summer, you can do this and call it bircher muesli. But those days are still a bit too far away to think about, I reckon.

2/3 cup rolled oats
1 apple, grated (include the skin)
2 Tbsp ground almonds
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp (a small pinch) ground cloves
a good pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 – 2 1/2 cups almond milk

Put all ingredients in a small pot and set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring often, and cook until thick and ‘ploppy’ (ie, bubbling lazily like a mud pool). Add more almond milk or water if it gets too thick. Serve with the porridge topping of your choice – here it’s Zany Zeus Greek yoghurt, a drizzle of vanilla syrup and a scattering of chopped almonds. Cream and golden syrup are also good options. If it’s a really cold day you can justify cream and Greek yoghurt…

Hope you are keeping at exactly the right temperature, wherever you are in the world.

I’m not normally given to wandering down the cereals aisle of the supermarket, but I did feel a pang of nostalgia when homegrown brand Hubbards turned 25 about six weeks ago. A quarter of a century! Where did the time go?

I remember my mother being very fond of ‘Mr Hubbard’, who did then-unthinkable things like include a chatty newsletter in each box of muesli and engage with his customers. That was a pretty big deal in the pre-internet age, as was their attitude to social responsibility. Of course, the mueslis were pretty good too, not least because they featured utterly addictive YCRs (otherwise known as yoghurt-covered raisins). In later years I remember a friend saying he thought Hubbards should just make boxes of YCRs rather than families and flatmates fall out over who ate the last ones. 

On a recent supermarket sweep I discovered that Hubbards now make all manner of new cereals over and above the old favourites (including a special 25th birthday one that contains chocolate and raspberries). It’s great to see them in such good health. Happy birthday, Hubbards. See you at 50. 

Fast oven-baked fish with a crunchy crust
The youngest member of our household is mad for what she calls ‘crumbled fish’ – that is, fish in a panko breadcrumb crust, fried in a pan. That’s all very well, but this is a faster, slightly healthier way to get the same crunchy kick. I used Hubbards’ Simply Toasted Muesli with nuts and seeds – I’d suggest opting for something similarly plain. This is one occasion where yoghurt-covered raisins are not the answer.

4 fillets tarakihi or similar
1 Tbsp cornflour
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups muesli
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 200C and line a baking dish with foil. Put the beaten egg in a shallow bowl and put the muesli in another shallow dish.
Dust the fish with cornflour, then dip each fillet into the egg mixture before coating it with the muesli. Repeat until all the fillets are coated.
Grease the foil with one tablespoon of the olive oil, and lay the fillets on top. Grind over some salt and pepper, then drizzle over the remaining oil.
Bake in the preheated oven for 5-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Remember it will keep cooking a little after you take it out of the oven.
Serve immediately with lemons and fresh herbs. Serves four.

Have a great week, everyone x

The one thing that people who achieve stuff seem to have in common is that they get up and do things, rather than sitting and waiting for the right moment to strike. I admire this, I really do, but I can’t seem to make it happen. Take bircher muesli, for example. I love eating it, but I’ve never been a great one for making it, all that grating and soaking and being a step ahead. Many’s the spring or summer morning when I’ve thought, ‘if only I had stayed up last night, grating apple and squeezing orange juice so I could be eating bircher muesli, then I wouldn’t be scarfing down a peanut butter-laden crumpet as I run for the bus’.

Then, one night, quite by chance, I just happened to stir a few things together and in the morning, without realising it, I had made a kind of bircher muesli. I didn’t even have to grate anything! Maybe I can achieve greatness after all. 

Summer berry porridge

This is hardly a recipe, more a set of guidelines. But hopefully they’ll help your mornings flow a little more smoothly and make you feel like less of a hopeless failure at life in general. This amount makes enough for four to six breakfasts – because I’m the only one that eats it in my household I make half this quantity so it’s not sitting in the fridge all week. If you forget to make it the night before, just stir it together as soon as you get up. By the time you’ve had a cup of tea and a shower, it will be completely edible.

2 cups rolled oats

2 cups almond milk (coconut milk is also good)

1/2 cup ground almonds

1/2 cup seeds – pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, chia

2 cups frozen berries

Mix all the ingredients together (I put them in an ice cream container), then cover and store in the fridge overnight. To serve, scoop out a portion into a waiting bowl, then top with a few more berries and a dollop of yoghurt. 

Have a great week, everyone!

I don’t mean to sound like one of those smug types who do everything but knit their own organic toilet paper,  but I am morally opposed to buying muesli or granola. Not only are they eyewateringly expensive, they’re always packed with sugar and somehow you end up with a nasty sort of dust in the bottom of the packet that looks suspiciously like sweepings from the factory floor.
Here’s my latest version, invented to use up some leftover apple juice. I’ve become addicted to sprinkling allspice on my porridge and so it has found its way into this as well.

Spiced Apple Granola
You’ll have to excuse my slightly vague measurements here – I make this by eye, judging on how much will fit in a roasting dish (which is conveniently about the same amount as will fit in the former gherkin jar that I store it in). Feel free to vary the nuts, seeds and fruit to suit your pantry and personal taste, but make sure you have a good proportion of these additions to oats or this granola will seem more like a punishment than a delicious breakfast. And don’t add poppy seeds – you’ll spend the whole day wondering if you’ve got one stuck in your teeth.

6 cups whole oats
3/4 cup sesame seeds
3/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup linseeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup almonds, roughly chopped (peanuts are a good standby for those weeks when money is too tight to mention)
1Tbsp ground allspice
1Tbsp ground cinnamon
4Tbsp honey (or golden syrup, or date syrup, or brown sugar)
3/4 – 1 cup apple juice
4Tbsp sunflower oil
Dried fruit – chopped dates, sultanas, raisins, chopped apricots – about 2 cups

Preheat the oven to 170C. Tip all the dry ingredients (except the fruit) into a large bowl and mix well. Mix the honey, apple juice and oil together and pour over the dry ingredients. Mix well with your hands. Add a little more apple juice (or a splash of water) if it seems very dry. You want it to be glossy, not wet. Tip into a large roasting dish (use two dishes if necessary). Put in the oven and cook for about 30 minutes, until golden. Don’t wander away – you need to stir it every 10 minutes or so. I frequently forget about mine and burn it, which is horribly frustrating. When it’s an even golden brown, remove from the oven and tip back into the original bowl. Stir through the fruit. Pour into an airtight container – like an empty gherkin jar – when cold.

Have a sweet weekend, everyone!

It has become very fashionable for recipes to appear in the post-Easter sugar haze exhorting ways to use up excess chocolate eggs. But because I usually give up chocolate before Easter – or at least try to – and I’m a bit fussy about the chocolate I eat, any nice Easter eggs are usually cracked and dispatched pretty quickly. This year, with a 5am wake-up call from the youngest member of our household, I spent the day eating any chocolate I could get my hands on in a bid to stay upright. By Easter Monday, I couldn’t bear the sight of it.

I got fairly sick of hot cross buns this year too – spending a day making endless batches will do that to a person – and so by the time the weekend was over I wanted something light and non-fruity, but with a hint of real chocolate (not the Easter egg kind).

These fluffy brioche buns were the result. They’re most excellent with a generous splodge of cream cheese and a dollop of marmalade – and with a long weekend coming up, you should think about adding them to your repertoire.

Chocolate Brioche Buns
The instructions below detail how to make these with a stand mixer – it can be done by hand, but it’s a bit more labour intensive.  I’ve designed this recipe so the buns are ready for breakfastIf you don’t want the buns for breakfast, the dough will rise in about an hour at room temperature.

275ml milk (I use Zany Zeus ‘blue’)
500g high grade flour
1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
50g unsalted butter, soft but not melted, diced
80g good quality dark chocolate, melted (I use Whittaker’s 60 per cent cacao)
100g good quality dark chocolate, smashed into little bits (I use Whittaker’s 60 per cent cacao)

Egg wash: 1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp milk

Sugar glaze: 1/4 cup boiling water mixed with 1/4 cup brown sugar

Scald the milk and set aside to cool to lukewarm. Add the eggs and stir to mix.
Put the flour, yeast, salt and sugar into the bowl of a freestanding mixer and stir until combined, then pour in the egg and milk mixture and mix well.
Using the dough hook, mix on low-medium speed (about 3 or 4) until the dough is shiny and elastic, about 5-8 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary (turn the mixer off first!).
Keeping the mixer on medium speed, drizzle in the melted chocolate. When it has all absorbed, start add the butter, one piece at a time, until it is all mixed in.
Cover the bowl with plastic and put in the fridge overnight, during which time it will double in size.
In the morning, tip the dough out on to a lightly floured worktop. knead in more choco
Cover with a cloth for 15 minutes, while you make a cup of tea and heat the oven to 180C.
Shape the dough into 10-12 balls and place on a lined baking tray. Brush each one with egg wash and bake for 15-20 minutes, until risen and cooked through. Brush with the hot sugar glaze and remove to a rack to cool (though they will probably all be eaten before that happens).

The chocolate and egg component make this the perfect opportunity to link up with two of my favourite bloggers, Karen of Lavender and Lovage and Dom of Belleau Kitchen. This month both Karen’s Tea Time Treats and Dom’s latest invention, Simply Eggcellent, have a chocolate theme. Click the links to find more chocolatey, eggy goodness.