They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and that couldn’t be more true when it preludes a five hour ride on a frosty winter’s morning. Lunchtime is usually come and gone by the time you return home hungry and exhausted, so you need some serious fuel in the tank before setting off.
It’s no secret that porridge makes for the perfect cyclist’s breakfast; it’s got all that low GI slow-energy release stuff, sustaining you well through the morning, and it provides some welcome warmth before stepping out into the cold. And it’s cheap, offering far more healthy nourishment for the pound than any other breakfast cereal on the supermarket shelves (most of which are horribly over processed, and over priced). Yet, porridge can also become a joyless stodgy glop that’s a chore to force down if you don’t get it right.
I used to hate porridge, mostly because of the way my mum used to make it (sorry Mum). She’d leave it to soak overnight, and then it would sit on the stove gently solidifying before being served up as a sort of paste that clung stubbornly to each spoonful. But don’t be seduced by the convenience and ease of the quick cook sachets as an easy way out, with their promise of a steaming bowlful after a quick blast in the microwave. I recently bought a couple of boxes after seeing them on special in the supermarket, but found they offered a joyless experience despite the added flavourings. And worse, I was hungry again by mid-morning despite the giant portions I was forcing down.
Always opt for whole rolled porridge oats, despite the extra labour involved. The six to seven minute cooking time might seem like an inconvenience, but it gives the perfect opportunity to get your kit ready, to track down that missing sock, and to rummage around in the laundry basket for the jersey you intended to wear but forget to put into the wash. My pre-ride morning routine is a whirlwind of disorganisation, yet it always seems possible to prepare a proper bowl of porridge.
First off, boil some water in the kettle. Then add it to a saucepan with your oats (I like the jumbo variety), enough to cover it completely. Stir regularly over a low heat for about five minutes, before mixing in some semi-skimmed milk and allowing that to warm through for another couple of minutes. Some like to add salt during cooking, but I don’t bother. You can vary the ratios of milk and water – milk is a good source of protein and gives a nice creamy texture. However I find too much milk makes for a very heavy bowlful.
Then you can flavour it with anything you fancy – nuts, seeds, dried fruit, compote, blueberries, once I even experimented (unsuccessfully) with Nutella – but I find a teaspoon of runny honey works for me, adding some healthy sweetness. For some reason tea just doesn’t work with porridge, it has to be a mug of strong coffee, such as filter or an Americano, nothing too milky.
And there you have it, a breakfast of champions.