Boy, have I been feeling rough. Having dodged various seasonal flu bullets in December, I have been taken out by a pathetic, non-descript, yet persistent little bug; a bug that hasn’t quite decided what it wants to be when it grows up. So while I’ve had all the ache and lethargy of flu, I’ve had none of the snot, cough and splutter. I asked Dr Google what it could be, and he, helpfully, replied that it’s probably nothing but possibly viral meningitis. At which point, I stopped asking.
I suppose I should feel grateful that I’m missing the messy half of flu, but instead I just feel a bit of a fraud, albeit a very tired one. Needless to say, all this started at the beginning of last week coinciding perfectly with the kids’ return to school (and therefore the 6.30 a.m. starts) and the husband’s business trip to LA.
What I have found most irritating, aside from the throbbing head, the eyeballs that feel three times too big for their sockets and the need to sleep for 15 hours a day, is the fact that I haven’t lost my appetite. You would have thought that a bug at this time of year might be nature’s helping hand towards shifting those extra Christmas pounds (in my case, four to be precise), but no, I have been shovelling more crap into my face than I did in the entire month of December. ‘Beige’ and ‘stodgy’ are the two adjectives that would most accurately describe my recent diet. Pappy white bread, cheese and crisps have featured heavily (individually or all together in a sandwich with pickled onions – don’t judge) as have biscuits dunked in bottomless cups of tea. One evening, while the kids ate the chicken tinga I had prepared for my abandoned cookbook club’s Mexican night (more on this at a later date), I could only manage the cheesy tortillas – essentially I ate crisps for tea. On Friday, when we had a takeaway curry (because cooking is off the agenda), I ate little more than poppadoms – ditto.
The healthiest thing I have eaten by far is porridge. Lots of porridge. Some days for both lunch and dinner (I have slept through all breakfasts skulking straight back to bed as soon as the kids have left for school). So in want of anything better to write about, I thought I’d share with you a couple of my favourite ways with porridge, which make the humble oat, well, less beige and less stodgy.
Porridge two ways
The first, here, is with lemon zest, vanilla and seeds. The lemon and vanilla lift the flavour out of dullsville and the seeds give it some bite.
Simply add a teaspoon of poppy seeds and two of linseeds per portion to your standard pan of porridge (I like using oatmeal rather than oats for the texture and almond milk in place of milk or water: I use a ratio of 1 part oats to 4 parts almond milk) along with a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste and the finely grated zest of half a lemon and a teaspoon or two of maple syrup. Top with a blob of Greek yogurt (coconut yogurt works well here too and would make this vegan if that is your wont), berries and an extra grating of zest. Drizzle over a bit more maple for extra sweetness.
The second version sees a couple of chopped Medjool dates and a heaped tablespoon of cooked quinoa (I used red) added to the porridge as it cooks. I top this again with some Greek yogurt plus some caramelised apples and pecans. And some blueberries. You can probably tell I am partial to a blueberry or two on my breakfast.
To make the caramelised apples, fry one eating apple (I used Jazz) which you have peeled, cored and sliced into twelfths in about a tablespoon of butter until golden brown, then add a small handful of pecans and a tablespoon of brown sugar, half a teaspoon of cinnamon and a pinch of salt and continue to cook gently until the nuts and apples are coated in the caramel.
Et voila. OK, so these may be a little bit on the beige side… but I promise they are not at all bland.