The first time I cooked quinoa porridge a few years ago, Ben gave a pretty doubtful response. For so many of us the ancient protein-packed grain has distinctly savoury connotations and throwing it into the sweet breakfast corner doesn’t always feel natural. However, mixed with a little cinnamon, honey, creamy cashew milk and fresh summer berries a whole different situation comes to life and it’s a bowl of goodness worth committing to.
Containing all the amino acids we need, quinoa is a plant based protein dream and its nutty flavour and satisfying texture make a refreshing alternative to its more humble porridge cousin, the oat. Maple and honey make delicious sweeteners, as does coconut palm sugar whose butterscotchy flavour really brings breakfasts – and cups of tea – of all kinds to life. So many people wonder which sugar form is “best” or “healthiest” and I go into it in detail in my book, but the bottom line is that as long as it’s as unprocessed as possible, it’s better than anything refined; beyond that, sugar is still sugar – it might have a lower GI and that’s worth considering for balancing energy levels but the difference will never be too dramatic. The only thing I would steer clear of in the “healthy” aisles is agave which is so often very refined and / or cut with high fructose corn syrup. Likewise, watch out for maple that isn’t organic and pure as other cheaper syrups can often creep their way in.
Back to the creation in question: this porridge base is super versatile and can shine all on its own if you’re short of toppings. In an ideal world, berries are a great addition as they’re full of antioxidant anthocyanins (the health-promoting compounds that give them their pigment) and lower in sugars than things like banana or pear. A dollop of nut butter is also good for extra fats and protein, and here some coconut oil and very rich cashew cream tick that box.
On that note, the creamy cashew is best if blended in a Vitamix or very high speed blender. Others will do but you might have a few chunks – this definitely wouldn’t be the end of the world.
I love to pile in the cinnamon here as it is a great natural blood sugar balancer and helps maintain energy levels as the sugar starts to circulate around the body and get metabolised. I’ve also topped it with a few soaked almonds and some back sesame (great for some plant-based calcium) but you can really get creative with whatever is in the cupboard. That’s exactly how this recipe came to life and most of the ones before and after it. The cupboard can contain treasures you never knew existed…Be brave and see what comes out.
Rinse your quinoa to remove the saponins (which can give it a bubbly soapy effect) then bring it to the boil with 2 cups of water (or 1 cup of water and 1 cup of nut milk if you prefer it richer), as well as the cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Cover and gently simmer for around fifteen minutes – or until the white rings start falling away from the centre of the grain – stirring often. Depending on your hob, you may need to add a little extra water to prevent it drying out.
Meanwhile, was and slice your berries and prepare your toppings.
Remove from the heat when cooked and drain if necessary, then add your honey or coconut palm sugar to taste and the coconut oil. Stir well and divide into two bowls. Top with the creamy cashew milk, berries and anything else; serve immediately.