Creamy Amaranth Porridge with Asparagus, Herbs, and Poached Egg

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Spring is finally here!

Today, I bought my first bunch of green asparagus of the year. For me, this marks the beginning of a new season. Some might tell me I have been “germanized”, but I quite like the enthusiastic welcoming of some seasonal vegetables here. I love to eat oatmeal, or porridge in the morning, flecked with some fresh or dried fruit, and a drizzle of maple syrup. But, this one I just made is a whole different game. The main grain used is amaranth, with some oats in the back ground. I used some typical south-east Asian ingredients, such fragrant lemongrass, keffir lime leaves, and a good amount of coconut milk to give this savory porridge a creamy consistency.

Amaranth is a nutritional powerhouse. It is high in protein, calcium, magnesium, fiber and potassium, and has been grown since the Aztec era, although sadly the Spaniards have eliminated it when they invaded the new world. It is luckily making a come back. It has similar nutritional values as quinoa, but at half the cost.

Make this delicious porridge for lazy brunch on a sunny spring weekend. You will really spoil yourself and your loved ones. Cheers!

Creamy Amaranth Porridge with Asparagus, herbs, and Poached Egg

*Note: Kefir lime leaves can be found in frozen section at any asian supermarkets. Lemongrass can be found either fresh, or frozen. If you can’t find edamame, use frozen peas instead. If using peas, add them to the porridge with the asparagus.

Serves 2-3

2 tsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 thumbnail sized ginger, peeled, and finely chopped
1 lemongrass, tender inner part, finely chopped
4 keffir lime leaves
5 coriander stalks, finely chopped
100g amaranth, washed and drained
40g rolled oats
440ml coconut milk
200ml water or vegetable stock
A handful edamame, shelled (substitute with peas, if unavailable. See recipe note*)
8 green asparagus, trimmed, and cut into bite sized pieces
5-6 ramp (wild garlic or bärlauch) leaves, finely chopped
Salt&pepper

To serve,
Coriander leaves
Lime wedges
Poached eggs
Sriracha hot sauce

1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, coriander stalks, and lime leaves, and cook until soft.
2. Add the amaranth, oats, edamame, coconut milk, a good pinch of salt and water. Bring to a boil, put the lid on, and turn down the heat to medium-low.
3. After about 15 mins, add the asparagus and ramp leaves. Turn up the heat to medium. Stir constantly for about 5 until the asparagus and amaranth are tender, and has reached a porridge consistency. Remove the lime leaves. Check for seasoning. Add some freshly ground pepper.
4. Serve with coriander leaves, lime wedges, hot sauce, and poached eggs on top.

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Matcha-Tahini Smoothie

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2014 was the year of green juice and smoothie. People were seem to be buying Vitamix blenders and slow juicers like these gadgets were the latest fashion accessories. I wonder about food trends sometimes. Although I do admit, we don’t eat or style food like we did back in the 70s (canned pineapple slices, maraschino cherries, baked with ham, for example.), and thank goodness those days are long gone, who on earth starts these crazy trends? Smoothie has been around way longer than kale juice. Until about a couple of years ago, kale juice was mostly drunken by bygone hippies from the 60s and 70s ,who still owned the same juicers from back then. Back in high school in Adelaide, a new smoothie bar opened up. It was called Boost Juice. Many of my friends went there on weekends to buy smoothies with super food supplements. The word “super food” wasn’t really around at the time, and we, or at least, I, felt cool drinking blueberry mango smoothie with wheatgrass powder, acai berry, or other strange supplements that were foreign to a 17 year old self. I must admit, those over priced smoothies kept me going during my final exams. Unfortunately, friends back in Australia tell me that Boost Juice isn’t what it used to be. What a shame.

Regardless of the smoothie trend in the last years, I’ve been making smoothies regularly in my kitchen for breakfast for a long time, especially when I’ve had too much to eat the night before, when I have overripe bananas, or when I’m just too lazy to chew. (Bless the person who invented the hand-held blender). Matcha, or also known as green tea powder, became popular in Korea and Japan in the past decade. It’s hailed has “superfood”-whatever that means in reality- by the health food bloggers since last year or so, and somebody decided almond milk matcha latte is the new new green juice of 2015. My annoyance aside, I’ll always love matcha. The grassy, vegetable-y, and slightly bitterness is so unique. It isn’t so forth coming on your palate, like black tea, for example. It’s like drinking green tea, but tastes and smells more grassy. In Korea, one of my favourite cafes is run by a green tea company, O’sulloc, from Jeju Island. The cafe is tastefully designed, and not only do they have amazing ranges of tea, but many of their pastry products incorporate matcha. I always get a chocolate mousse cake with green tea when I’m there. They also have fluffy matcha chiffon cake, matcha truffles, matcha shaved ice… you name it.

This smoothie I made this morning is healthy, invigorating, and easily put together. Matcha powder isn’t cheap, but a little goes a long way. Mine was brought back from Japan by my friend Max a couple of years ago, and I just got two new tins of matcha from my boyfriend who came back from a tour in Japan. I guess I’m one lucky woman. (thanks guys!) 🙂

Matcha-Tahini Smoothie

Serves 2 or 1 generously

2 small-medium bananas

200ml yogurt of your choice (cow, sheep, soy, coconut..whatever)

150ml water or coconut water

2 tsp matcha powder

1.5 tsp honey or date syrup

1/4 tsp pure vanilla essence

1.5 Tbsp tahini

Sesame seeds, or other chopped nuts for topping (optional)

1. Peel and slice the bananas. Freeze them overnight.

2. Blend the rest of the ingredients with the bananas until smooth.

Earl Grey Milk Jam

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Happy new year, everyone!

I hope your end of the year was filled with love, wonderful and indulgent food, and delicious wine. Are you on a detox? I’m not a believer of detox, but I do cut down on a few things in January, like meat (I eat a lot of meat in December, compared to the rest of the year), less alcohol, and a little less cheese (because frankly, how can you cut down on cheese completely?). Sugar? Yes, of course we all should cut down on sugar, but on cold grey mornings, I swear this recipe will brighten up your day. It will be your new Nutella. It’s super easy to make, and it can be doubled with no trouble. The jam or confiture de lait, is full of creamy, milky, sweet goodness with a hint of earl grey. Spread some on toast, drizzle over pancakes and waffles, or just spoon straight out of the jar. Go and make this today! Xoxo A.

Earl Grey Milk Jam

This is adapted from my aunt’s cookbook, Cold Sweets. (available only in Korean, unfortunately!). To sterilize a jar, wash the jar and the lid in hot water with soap. Dry upside down in an oven over 110 degrees celsius for about 10 mins. 

* Make sure you use a wide frying pan with high sides, and a silicon spatula for baking*.

Makes a 200ml jar

250ml whole milk

2 earl grey tea bags

250ml single cream

2.5 Tbsp raw cane sugar or vanilla sugar

1 Tbsp honey

A pinch of salt

30g butter

1. Heat the milk to a gentle simmer. Remove from the heat and steep the tea for about 10 mins. Remove the tea bags.

2. In a medium to large frying pan with high sides, bring the infused milk, sugar, honey, and salt to a gentle simmer. Stir until the sugar has dissolved.

3. Add the cream to the milk in 3 batches, stirring constantly until the cream has been incorporated.

4. Add the butter, and let it melt. Simmer the sauce in a medium heat for about 20 mins, stirring frequently to prevent the jam from sticking to the bottom. After about 20 mins, stir constantly until the consistency of the jam is similar to a thin syrup. It will thicken up once cooled.

5. Pour into a hot sterilized jar and put the lid on to seal. Keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, although I’m sure it will be eaten up in a day or two!

Pumpkin pie porridge with caramelized apple wedges

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Winter is slowly creeping in on us here in Germany. The morning air has become crisp, but not too crisp yet that your nose hurts when you breath in. The moment I open the window first thing in the morning, it wakes me up right away, and it also makes me long for a big mug of black tea and warm breakfast that sticks to my ribs.

In the summer months I usually make myself a big glass of smoothie or a bowl of granola, and a shot of espresso maybe, because it’s just too hot to drink tea. Porridge is a regular at my apartment in the winter months. I vary the toppings, spices, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits I add in the basic formula (1 part oats to 2 part liquid).  This porridge I made the other day was definitely a winner. I had left over pumpkin puree from a failed attempt at making a individually portioned pumpkin pie in jars (don’t ask. I’m still disappointed at my failure..). I had just enough puree to make a big bowl the next morning to console myself and indulge in self-pity. Seriously, there’s nothing worse than having a failure in my kitchen, one of few place where I feel like I have some kind of control. But I made a pumpkin pie porridge out this little kitchen disaster. You know what they say. If you have a pile of crap, make a veggie garden!

If you live in the states, I’m sure it’s no problem to pop into a shop to buy a canned pumpkin puree. But no such thing exist in Germany as far as I know. I found one kind at my organic store, but it was so watery that I couldn’t really use it for baking. But pumpkins and squashes are in abundance at this time of the year. Having a pumpkin and baking it in the oven warms up the kitchen as well, which makes me feel all cozy and I can’t wait for Christmas to come.

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I say make a batch of pumpkin puree today (or butternut squash or other kinds of squashes/pumpkins). It will last for 3-4 days in an air-tight container. You can make various things with it, like this pumpkin pie porridge, pumpkin pancakes, or soup. It does stretch a long way!

Pumpkin pie porridge with caramelized apple wedges

Serves 1 but it can be easily doubled or tripled

For porridge

1/2 cup or 50g of old fashioned rolled oats (not instant)

1/3 cup or 80ml pumpkin puree* (recipe down below)

1/3+ cup water

1/3+ cup milk of your choice (cow, oat, spelt, soy, almond……)

A splash of cream if you feel indulgent

1/4-1/2 tsp pumpkin spice (recipe here from Joy the Baker)- this is not optional!

A pinch of salt

For caramelized apple

A small knob of butter or ghee

1 apple of your choice

a sprig of thyme (optional)

1 tsp soft brown sugar

A tiny pinch of salt (will bring out the flavor of the apple)

To serve: pure maple syrup, and nuts or seeds of your choice (such as, toasted walnuts, hazelnuts, hemp hearts, and etc)

1. Add all the ingredients for porridge in a small but heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to simmer. Watch carefully while it comes to a simmer. Do not leave the stove. Turn the heat down to low and let it gently simmer for 10 minutes until it thickens and the oats are tender. Stir 2-3 times while it simmers to prevent from sticking to the bottom of the pan. If the porridge is thickening at a faster rate than you’d like, add a splash of water and/or milk.

2. Cut the apple in wedges. Heat the butter or ghee in a small frying pan in a medium heat. Lay the wedges in the pan and let them brown lightly. Sprinkle with herbs if using. Flip the wedges to brown the other side. Once they are golden, sprinkle with brown sugar and gently push them around the pan until the sugar has melted and nicely caramelized. Remove the pan from heat.

3. Enjoy the bowl of this warming porridge with apple wedges. Maple syrup is a great choice as sweetener. Sprinkle with nuts such as walnuts if you like.

*Pumpkin puree

1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Cut the pumpkin or squash in half. Scoop out the seeds and membrane.

2. Lightly brush the cut sides with oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Lay the cut side down on a baking tin lined with baking paper. Bake for 30-40 minutes or longer depending on the size of your pumpkin, until the flesh is very soft.

3. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and puree in a hand held blender or folk. Store in an air-tight container up to 3-4 days in the fridge.