Porridge (also spelled porage, porrige, parritch, etc.), is a dish made by boiling ground, crushed, or chopped cereal in water, milk, or both, with optional flavourings, usually served hot in a bowl or dish. It may be sweetened with sugar, or served as a savoury dish. The term is usually used for oat porridge (porridge oats); there are similar dishes made with other grains or legumes, but they often have other unique names, such as polenta or grits.
A dish made of oats alone, either in crushed or meal form, or whole-grain, is known simply as oatmeal in the U.S. and parts of Canada. Hot cereals are often prepared as instant breakfasts.
Oat and semolina porridge are the most popular varieties in many countries. In addition to oats, cereal meals used for porridge include rice, wheat, barley, and corn. Legumes such as peasemeal can also be used to make porridge. Gruel is similar to porridge but is made without milk and has a very thin consistency.
Porridge was a traditional food in much of Northern Europe and Russia. Barley was a common grain used, though other grains and yellow peas could be used, depending on local conditions. It was primarily a savory dish, with a variety of meats, root crops, vegetables, and herbs added for flavor. Porridge could be cooked in a large metal kettle over hot coals, or heated in a cheaper earthenware container by adding hot stones until boiling hot. Until leavened bread and baking ovens became commonplace in Europe, porridge was a typical means of preparing cereal crops for the table. It was also commonly used as prison food for inmates in the UK prison system and so "doing porridge" became a slang term for a sentence in prison.
In many modern cultures, porridge is widely eaten as a breakfast dish, often with the addition of salt, butter, sugar, milk or cream, depending on regional preferences. In the English-speaking Caribbean islands it is common to add cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar and almond essence to the oats, water and milk. Some manufacturers of breakfast cereal, such as Scott's Porage Oats and, in Ireland, Flahavan's Progress Oatlets, sell 'ready-made' forms and/or products based on pre-cooked oatmeal. Porridge is one of the easiest ways to digest grains or legumes, and is used traditionally in many cultures as a food to nurse the sick back to health. It is also commonly eaten by athletes in training.
Recipes and ratios
For oatmeal porridge, milk, water, or a mixture can be used as cooking liquid. Scottish traditionalists allow only oats, water and salt. Full-fat milk makes a rich porridge. A ratio of one part of milk to two of water has been recommended as a happy medium. One part of oats can be cooked in two to four parts of liquid. Two parts has been criticised as giving too gluey a result, and four parts as too loose; a ratio of 1:3 has been recommended. One source suggests using equal parts of pinhead (steel-cut) oatmeal and medium ground oatmeal. There are various techniques suggested by different cooks, such as pre-soaking, but a comparative test found very little difference in the end result (one suggestion is to stir only clockwise, as "anti-clockwise stirring will encourage the devil into your breakfast"). Toasting the oats beforehand for a couple of minutes gives the finished dish a distinctly nutty, roasted flavour. Letting the porridge sit, lidded, for 5 to 15 minutes may develop a little more flavour. A little salt added towards the end of cooking is essential, whether or not the porridge is sweetened. Various flavourings are used: demerara sugar, golden syrup, Greek yoghurt and honey, even langoustine tails and scallops. A girdle of very cold milk or single cream is reported to be essential (by some 'experts'), traditionally served in a separate bowl to keep it cold. Cooking time can be adjusted to taste, but simmering for ten minutes is typical for non-instant (and tastier) oatmeal.
Groats, a porridge made from unprocessed oats or wheat.
Kasha, a widely consumed groats/porridge range of dishes, utilising a variety of grains, widespread in Eastern Europe and Russia.
Owsianka, an east European (Russia, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine) traditional breakfast made with hot milk, oats, and sometimes with sugar and butter.
Porridge made from rolled oats or ground oatmeal is common in Scotland, England, Australia, New Zealand, North America and Scandinavia. It is known as simply "porridge" or, more commonly in the United States and sometimes in Canada, "oatmeal". Rolled oats are commonly used in England, oatmeal in Scotland, and steel-cut oats in Ireland.
Rubaboo is made from dried maize and peas with animal fat, and was a staple food of the Voyageurs.
Shuco, a Salvadoran dish of black, blue, or purple corn flour, ground pumpkin seeds, chili sauce, some red cooked kidney beans, which was traditionally drunk out of a hollowed-out gourd at early morning, especially coming from a hunting or drinking trip.
Uji, a thick East African porridge made most commonly from corn flour mixed with sorghum and many other different ground cereals, with milk or butter and sugar or salt. Ugali, a more solid meal, is also made from maize flour, likewise often mixed with other cereals. These two, under various names, are staple foods over a wide part of the African continent, e.g., pap in South Africa, sadza in Zimbabwe, nshima in Zambia, tuwo or ogi in Nigeria, etc., though some of these may also be made from sorghum.
Sour cream porridge, a Norwegian porridge of wheat flour in cooked sour cream with a very smooth and slightly runny texture. It is served with sugar, cinnamon, cured meats, or even hard-boiled eggs depending on local custom.
Indonesian and Malaysian congee, called bubur, comes in many regional varieties, such as bubur sumsum, made from rice flour boiled with coconut milk then served with palm sugar sauce; and also bubur manado or tinutuan, a rice porridge mixed with various vegetables and eaten with fried salted fish and chili sauce.
Japanese congee, called kayu, is mixed with salt and green onions. Often accompanied with variety of foods such as tsukemono(preserved vegetables), shiokara(preserved seafoods), and so on.
Korean congee, called juk, can have added seafood, pine nuts, mushrooms, etc.
Thai congee, called "khao tom" (ข้าวต้ม), can have added coriander, preserved duck eggs, fish sauce, sliced chili peppers, pickled mustard greens or salt cabbage preserves, red pepper flakes, etc.
Philippine congee, called lugaw or arroz caldo, contains saffron, ginger, and sometimes meat. Less common ingredients include boiled eggs, pepper, chilies, puto, lumpiang toge, tofu, fish sauce, calamansi sauce, toyo, and spring onions. It is common as a street food.
Cream of Rice, a brand of American rice porridge, boiled in milk or water with sugar or salt.
Kheer (or Ksheer), a traditional Indian sweet dish, made of rice boiled in milk.
Tsampurado, a sweet chocolate rice porridge in Philippine cuisine. It is traditionally made by boiling sticky rice with cocoa powder, giving it a distinctly brown color and usually with milk and sugar to make it taste sweeter.
Frescarelli, an Italian dish made of overcooked rice and white flour, typical of Marche.
Orez în lapte (Romania), a dessert made with rice boiled in milk with sugar, sometimes flavored with cinnamon, jam, cocoa powder, etc.
Buckwheat porridge, made of buckwheat in butter, is eaten by many people in Russia and Ukraine, with yoghurt more common in the Caucasus.
Genfo is a thick porridge made by lightly roasting, milling and cooking any combination of Ethiopian oats wheat, barley, sorghum, millet, maize, chickpeas, yellow peas, soybeans or bulla, the starch from the root of the false banana tree; it is traditionally eaten for breakfast with a dollop of clarified, spiced butter (kibe) or oil and chili-spice mix berbere, or with yoghurt. For those who can afford it, it is a popular holiday or Sunday breakfast dish and is often given to pregnant women and women after birthing to bring them back to health and strength.
Atmit, Muk or Adja is a thinner version of Genfo porridge for drinking, mixed often with spiced, clarified butter, milk and honey, or on its own with a pinch of salt. It is popular in the rainy season and for nursing the sick back to health.
Besso, made of roasted and ground barley is a popular snack for travellers and, in olden times, foot soldiers. The powder is either mixed with a bit of water, salt and chili powder to make a thick bread like snack, or mixed with more water or milk and honey for drinking. The Gurage and other southern tribes in Ethiopia ferment the Besso for a few days with water and a bit of sugar, add a pinch of salt and chili and drink it as a fortifying and energising meal-in-a-drink.
Ingredients: roasted rice, wheat, roasted gram, jowar, maize, millet, groundnut, cashewnut, corn, barley, ragi. Roast all the ingredients individually in a pan without any ghee/oil. Ground them together into a coarse powder.
This porridge is rich in protein and good for children.
Varieties and preparation of oat porridge
In many countries both plain ground, crushed, steel-cut, etc. oats are available, and also many commercial porridge-based foods which may cook faster and contain any of a large range of flavourings, all cooked by boiling with water and sometimes milk.
The US Consumer Reports Web site found that the more cooking required, the stronger the oat flavor and the less mushy the texture. They tested ten flavored instant oatmeals, finding that nine were good but nothing special; their sweetness and maple or brown-sugar taste overwhelmed the oats. The tenth instant oatmeal rated only fair. The longer-cooking of four unflavored oatmeals all tasted very good. The best rated was not a fast-cooking version, requiring about 30 minutes. Others took 5 or 1 minute. They were all good, chewy with a toasted nutty grain flavor; the slowest-cooking one was the best. Cooking in a microwave oven would change the timings and possibly the results.
Fineness and properties
Oat grains can be sold whole (groats), ground into oatmeal or Scottish oats, steamed and rolled into flakes of varying thickness, or cut into two or three pieces, steel-cut. Groats can be used as other whole grains; they are a little softer than wheat berries. Rolled oats can be used for many purposes; the bigger the flakes, the chewier the result. They may be precooked—instant varieties. Steel-cut, as a cereal, are much chewier. They are suitable as a breakfast cereal, but less so for baking, as they do not soften well. It is said that, because of their size and shape, the body breaks steel-cut oats down more slowly than rolled oats, reducing spikes in blood sugar and keeping you full longer.
The nutritional information for typical porridge oats without additional flavouring is basically that of oats; milk and flavourings added during cooking or afterwards add other nutrients; some, such as excessive sugar and sodium, may be less desirable. Oats are a good source of dietary fibre; health benefits are claimed for oat bran in particular, which is part of the grain. Nutritional information is available from suppliers, and is printed on packaged oats.