I know, this post is woefully out of date, and quinces are woefully out of season. But I’m going to post this anyway, because the recipe is equally applicable to pears, and this is just as much about the porridge as it is about the quinces.
Every Sunday when I was growing up (and maybe he still does) my dad would make himself a big bowl of porridge and a big pot of coffee and spread the Sunday paper all across the dining table and go through it page by page.
He cooked the porridge with a special pot and a special wooden spoon (actually a wooden shamoji) that no-one was allowed to touch for anything else. And if I wasn’t too busy wolfing down cereal, or getting in the way of the paper, I’d get some too.
Dad’s weekend porridge was special, different to the sickly sweet instant sachets I loved at the time. For one, it took longer to cook than sixty seconds in a microwave. And unlike the flavours I loved (blueberries n’ cream! maple walnut spice!) his never changed: just brown sugar and milk, over perfectly cooked oats.
But I loved the way the brown sugar melted into caramel pools swirling in milk, the pure sugar hit I’d get for the first few spoonfuls while I resisted stirring it in, finally succumbing after a few bites and mixing it all together.
Porridge is such an intensely personal thing. Every person I’ve met (and talked porridge with) has their own favourite way of making it. Some people claim not to like porridge, but I like to think they just haven’t found the version that suits them yet. (If that’s you, don’t give up!) My favourite way of eating porridge isn’t the way my dad makes porridge, or how you’ll get it in a cafe (well, any cafe I’ve eaten porridge at, at least).
I like my oats hearty and whole, chewy almost, but still cooked through and soft enough to qualify as comfort food. I soak them overnight with a little bit of buttermilk or plain yoghurt – according to this book soaking the oats helps break down phytic acid and improve their nutritional benefits, but I mostly like the way it cooks up in the morning, quick and extra-tender. And instead of milk, I top my porridge with a bit of butter and a splash of cream – the butter sounds weird, but trust me, it’s good.
(In case you’re interested, I’ve posted my method below.)
But back to these ginger-poached quinces: save this thought for next quince season. They’re so very good, and simple too. You just need a bit of time and patience for them to cook ever-so-slowly until they get all rosy and soft and sweet and gingery. (So gorgeous and dainty, I could fawn over them all night but I won’t, because it’s Friday and a girl needs a night out every once in a while.)
They’re good on their own with a bit of cream or mascarpone, or on top of some puff pastry, popped in the oven, or anything you feel like really – but I couldn’t stop eating them on porridge, as you might have already guessed. They turn something everyday like oatmeal into something really special, especially if you drizzle a bit of the poaching liquid over the top instead of brown sugar or maple syrup. That stuff goes straight to the soul.
Take roughly 250-300g quince (2-3 quinces, depending on size), peeled and sliced, and put into a saucepan with 1-2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, sliced up, about 3/4 cup sugar and plenty of water. Slowly bring to a gently boil and then turn the heat right down to low. Let simmer for ages until the quince turns a nice rosy hue and the liquid is all gingery and syrupy when you taste it (and taste away, but think of your teeth! This stuff is a cavity in the making).
Keeps forever in the fridge, and is great for countless applications like: for a porridge topping, served with yoghurt, cream or ice cream, to go on/in pastry, etc!
You can just as easily do this with pears. If you do, allow less time to cook. Also, it’ll be easier if you use slightly underripe pears so they don’t fall to bits.
MY FAVOURITE WAY OF COOKING PORRIDGE:
Soak oats* overnight, at room temperature, with 1 tbsp buttermilk or unsweetened yoghurt, and lukewarm water (in an equal proportion to the oats).
In the morning, dump the bowl of soaking oats in a saucepan with some more water (I use the same measurement as I use for the oats).** Put the heat on medium to medium-low, go do some other things for a few minutes (getting ready!) and when it’s cooked to a nice porridgey consistency, take it off the heat.
Put in a bowl. Put a splash of cream and a little pat of butter on top. Don’t feel guilty, they help you digest the oats better. (Unless you’re lactose intolerant maybe.) Top with whatever: maple syrup, brown sugar, lots of fruit, or in this case, the ginger-poached quince (or pear!).
*I usually use 1/3 cup for myself, but feel free to adjust depending on how hungry you are in the morning/how many people you’re cooking for.
**At this point I’ll often add a chopped up banana, or pear, or dates or raisins so they cook along with the oats and get all soft and delicious.