filling up with brandy, killing with a kiss

That’s brandy pooling round the edge of the bowl, by the way, not melted butter. Wait, which is more concerning first thing in the morning? Don’t think I’d be above adding melted butter to my porridge. It’s only one step removed from apple crumble topping.

Despite being shackled with a dull, greyish-beige colour and a name that implies the theme of Coronation Street tolls for ye (or indeed, the theme of the eponymous prison-set show) there is a lot to love about porridge. It’s cheap. It sustains. It’s warm. You can cook it pretty quickly. It contains such good things as – according to Wikipedia – fibre, protein, iron and magnesium. And I also have this thing where, if I make porridge, I feel like I don’t have to do the dishes right away – just fill the oaty pot with water and leave it sitting in the sink for the rest of the day.

One way to make your morning porridge distinctly less greyish-beige is to topple spoonfuls of sultanas soaked in a syrup of sugar and liquor over it. What pushed me towards such sybaritic early-morning behaviour is a recipe in the Floriditas cookbook, Morning Noon and Night. Floriditas is a beautiful cafe in Wellington. Tim and I would eat there all the time if we could afford it. Till that time comes, we can eat like them whenever I make recipes from their cookbook. Morning Noon and Night’s recipe calls for Pedro Ximinez sherry to soak your dried fruit in, and not having any of that, I used quince brandy. I realise quince brandy itself is a fairly specialised ingredient, but I believe regular sherry or brandy, Marsala, Cointreau or Grand Marnier, probably some whiskys or bourbons, or nigh on any liqueur or fortified wine (maybe not Midori though) would be lush as a substitute.

If you’re wanting to make quince brandy, because if you move fast you should still be able to get hold of some, all you have to do is chop up the fruit (don’t bother to peel or anything) and tip into a kilner jar or similar. Add a cinnamon stick and top up with brandy (as cheap as you like) then leave in a cupboard for about 6 weeks. It tastes and smells amazing, and the recipe comes from Nigella Lawson’s significant book How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

Porridge with Pedro Ximinez (or whatever) Raisins (or sultanas)

Adapted slightly from Morning Noon and Night, the Floriditas cookbook.

Note: I used sultanas, because, even though they look exactly the same as raisins, I just prefer them. But, showing what being a Nigella acolyte can do to you, I also included some golden raisins, which for some reason I can deal with because they look so pretty. I get mine from Ontrays in Petone, but please don’t feel your breakfast is a failure if you only use regular ones.

  • 250g raisins or sultanas
  • 190mls Pedro Ximinez sherry; or more or less whatever you like, I used Quince Brandy
  • 50g sugar
  • 50ml water

Dissolve the sugar and water in a small pan, then boil for about 5 minutes till thick and slightly golden. Watch carefully. Place the raisins in a bowl, pour over the syrup and refrigerate till cool. Then add the alcohol, mix well, and either transfer to jars or a container and refrigerate again. Leave as long as you can – these just get better with time.


  • 1 cup porridge oats soaked overnight in 1/2 a cup water (soaking optional)
  • At least 3/4 cup water
  • Good pinch salt
  • Good pinch cinnamon

Place the oats, water, salt and cinnamon in a saucepan and bring to the boil, continuing to cook (stirring continuously) till thick and creamy. Please use this amount of water as a guide only – depending on your oats and your preference, you may need way more.

Pour into two bowls, top with spoonfuls of the raisins and a little syrup.

This is so delicious – the soaking makes the oats soft and creamy despite only water being used, the cinnamon brings warmth of flavour to the potential dullness of the oats, and the soft, swollen fruit releasing a small burst of gently alcoholic syrup into your mouth with every bite. And as long as you’re a bit prepared the night before with the syrup and the soaking and everything, it comes together in bare minutes. If you’re not down with ingesting a tiny bit of alcohol first thing in the morning – and that’s completely up to you – some equally excellent options could include replacing the sherry with orange juice, or doing away with it entirely, doubling the sugar and water, and adding a good spoonful of vanilla extract or a generous dusting of ground cinnamon.

The sultanas would probably make decent gift for someone – they can be employed in many different ways, in cakes, on yoghurt, in puddings, or as we did last night, over ice cream. Mum, my godmother and my godmother’s sister (that sounds complicated and austere, think of them as aunties) came down to Wellington for the weekend and Tim and I had them over for dinner last night. Mum turned up with a purple cauliflower and a block of butter, which some people might not think is a very good gift, but most people aren’t me. Both were received with much excitement. It has been a really lovely time catching up with them and seeing Mum again although her visit came with some sad news – Rupert, the cat we got in 1997 from my Mum’s sister who wasn’t allowed cats at her then-house, had been put down after a his longterm nose cancer got the better of him. I loved that cat so much and in his fourteen year stay with us he outlived so many other co-pets that it almost seemed like he’d just carry on living forever. His surprising appetite, his ability to warm a lap, and his look that suggests that he can understand how much you love him but he doesn’t care anyway because he’s a cat and that’s how he does, will all be missed hugely by me.

RIP Rupert. This is our last photo together, when we got back from our holiday overseas two weeks ago (yes, I added the black and white to make it more dramatic, but still. Look at the disparity between our enjoyment of this moment. That’s classic Rupert.)

Title via: How Did We Come To This, the final song in Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party, the musical which has the heavy honour of introducing me to both Idina Menzel and Julia Murney back in 2005. If you ever suspect you could be into musical theatre, this might well be the cast recording that confirms that for you.

Music lately:

Treme Song by John Boutte – it’s a rare, rare soundtrack that I make the effort to find, but a few – like the music from the TV show Treme – are better than your average unnecessary cash-in attempt. This song is just so good, and I was reminded of that when we had book group on Friday at the lovely Kate’s house and it accompanied our discussion of Confederacy of Dunces (and other things).

Next time: Mum brought down a massive box of feijoas from Nana’s tree (thanks Nana! And your tree!) and my godmum Viv told me about how she replaced the dates in a sticky date pudding with feijoas…and I think I have to try replicate that immediately. Either that, or something featuring purple cauliflower.


19 thoughts on “filling up with brandy, killing with a kiss

  1. emm says:

    Oh my that looks like the perfect mothers day breakfast… Had I read your post yesterday and owned a bottle of brandy 😉
    So nice that you introduced yourself, I've found it really hard finding other fellow nz food bloggers. Awesome site you have here xx


  2. Hannah says:

    Oh, you know the cat truly loves the squeezy-squeezy-lifty-huggy-squeezy, deep down. He's just too cool to show it 😉

    I am, as I've probably mentioned before, a diehard porridge fan. My staple is nut butter, chocolate, cinnamon, and maple syrup all together, but phwoar! I like your creation here, and am now imagining all sorts of cocktail-inspired breakfasts…


  3. Couscous & Consciousness says:

    Laura, despite the fact that I have had a life-long loathing of porridge, ever since I was forced as kid on many winter mornings to eat lukewarm bowls of porridge that had been made a couple of hours earlier – truly disgusting it was and ever since just the smell makes me nearly barf. That said, I would actually be willing to try you porridge – it looks and sounds that good!!

    I am so, so sorry to hear about your Rupert – we had to leave our cat behind in Christchurch when we moved up to Auckland, and that has been sad, but at least he is happy in a good home. I'm sure you will really miss Rupert for a long time 😦



  4. Zo @ Two Spoons says:

    Hehe, breakfast gets sexy! I like to set my porridge going on a low heat, covered, as soon as I'm out of bed and then it's half done while I'm brushing my teeth etc. It feels a bit like someone's cooked breakfast for you 🙂

    Rupert sounds like a damn cool cat…I miss both the cats from former flatmates to pieces, it's always very strange when they're suddenly gone!


  5. Harriette Richards says:

    Hey Laura,
    Just thought I would say kia ora once again, having already said hello in person at Scopa on Saturday. Glad you had a lovely weekend with your dear mama.
    Keep writing and cooking. I will keep reading.


  6. Kay says:

    Awesome weekend…Loved Wellington – so many wonderful places to eat and have a cup of coffee or hot chocolate: Fidels, (Fidel's?), Pravda, Scopa, Leuven, The Library, Your Place.

    For an extra creamy porridge, I like to soak it in milk instead of water (trim milk, of course…)

    Yep, feels strange bring Rupertless. He was so disdainful of people, and the other co-pets, most of whom he outlived (Spider, Jetski, Micky, Louis.) We always wondered if he was implicated in the high turn-over of the other cats, especially as they all died comparatively prematurely, and somewhat tragically…


  7. Alana Fisher says:

    Love the brandy on porridge idea, perfect way to encourage getting out of cosy bed on winter mornings. Sad about your cat, pets are key, and cats as lap-warmers – another winter essential. Tim might have to step up to the plate.


  8. lynz.odyssey says:

    Hey Laura, RIP Rupert. Who knew when he was dropped off with brother Spider cat all those years ago that he would become the grand old man that he was. He transferred his allegience totally to your family (showing a good amount of sense at the good berth he had found) and only deigned to come into my orbit if I slept in your bed on trips to yours :). He did sit next to me on the chair two weeks ago and merely looked whilst I was on my computer and that was as much as he wanted to give then. Re the porridge – only like my porridge cooked with milk as per your great grandfather and grandfather's methods but I bet they would both be impressed with the addition of a smidgeon of alcohol to kick the day off, lol, esp the ggf.(It would never have got past the teetotalling great grandmother though, heh heh). Have both sultanas and liquours so think I may give this a go. :):)


  9. Kay says:

    Erm… hadn't had time to tell Lynn about the cat… guess she knows now. Ditto on the family connections to adding milk or cream to porridge at the soaking stage. A wee bit o' salt is also high in the family porridge traditions.


  10. Spanish Viv says:

    Hey Laura, lovely to catch up with you over the weekend. Thanks so much for cooking dinner on Saturday night. I love that photo of you and Rupert! I found this recipe and thought of your comments over that delicious 'tasting high tea' we shared on Sunday…
    Perfect poached eggsPreparation time: 10 minutes

    Cooking directions
    •Cook 1 or 2 eggs per person.
    •Fill a saucepan or deep frying pan with about 5cm of water and add a splash of vinegar (helps the egg keep its shape).
    •Bring the water to a gentle simmer.
    •One at a time, break eggs into a saucer or shallow cup. Then slide the egg into the water.
    •As soon as the water starts simmering again, turn off the heat and cover saucepan with lid.
    •Stand for about 2 minutes, or until the egg white has set.
    •Lift the eggs out of water with a slotted spoon.
    •Serve on wholegrain toast with freshly ground black pepper.


  11. Foodycat says:

    Rest in peace Rupert! He was a beautiful cat.

    Your porridge looks delicious. I am a fan of the occasional bowl of whisky porridge – spoonful of whisky, spoonful of honey, slosh of cream on top.


  12. Anonymous says:

    I love porridge and even better with a boozy topping, I just love that steam shot too. Sorry to hear about Rupert, I have two moggies two and will worry about them while we are away for a month. Luckily we have a cat sitter for that time :0) they are so our babies!


  13. Kate @ says:

    Sorry to hear about Rupert, he looks like he was pretty awesome. So sad when a pet dies, especially when they've been in the family for so long, but it's also great that you guys had so many years with him.

    I'd like to see what you do with a purple cauli! And I'd like to make purple soup with one myself sometime.


  14. Juliet says:

    Yuuuuuummmm Porridge. My number one is cooked on the stove, sprinkled with raisins (when I was a kid, I used to try and drop them into the big craters when the porridge was boiling, but it never worked) and covered with lots and lots of brown sugar and cream.

    However, at work we only have a microwave to make porridge in, and I stumbled upon a delicious version that also gets totally rid of the grey-beige-oaty colour: Put about a tablespoon and a half of instant oats in a bowl, and about the same amount of water, and about 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of frozen raspberries. Then put in the microwave for a minute, then when they come out mash the raspberries up with your spoon and put back in for another 45seconds or so…and ta-dah, a pretty raspberry coloured and delicious raspberry flavoured bowl of porridge. I like it with a chopped up apple on top, and some de winkel honey greek yoghurt!


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