an easy gluten free vegan porridge

If you are interested in keeping your morning preparations to a minimum, quinoa porridge is definitely fuss free. Made from quinoa flakes, rather than oatmeal, you can easily make a batch for the whole family and let them add their own toppings. If you use a slow-cooker, you will be waking up to an easy breakfast of warming quinoa porridge.

Quinoa flakes make a delicious porridge in 90 seconds on the stove top but if you have the kind of mornings where 90 seconds at the stove is a step too far, you can make this overnight version if you have a slow cooker (called a crock-pot in some parts of the world).

Classed as an ancient grain and pronounced ‘keen-wa’, quinoa is a nutritional powerhouse. It contains the nine essential amino acids making it a complete protein. Naturally high in dietary fibre, quinoa is a slowly and easily digested carbohydrate, making it a good low-GI option and a fantastic breakfast as it will keep your blood sugars stable until lunchtime. It is also gluten-free and contains other minerals such as zinc and iron.

As a porridge, quinoa has a slight malty taste and the flakes are a little more bitter than oatmeal. The bitterness is due to a compound that coats the quinoa, called saponins. Saponins are the compound which makes quinoa a bit foamy when you cook it. You can remove the saponins and reduce any bitterness by placing the quinoa flakes in a sieve and rinsing them under cold running water before use.

Quinoa has formed part of the staple diet of the South American people in the regions of Peru, Chile and Bolivia for thousands of years. It has been controversial recently since as the nutritional benefits of quinoa have become more widely known, the value of quinoa crops grown in South America have shot up in price as most of the crops are exported. This makes quinoa unaffordable for the people who have been eating it for years. I’m delighted to have found a good UK source of quinoa, grown just outside of Colchester in Essex by Peter Fairs and sold by the lovely people at Hodmedods. Perfect for those seeking low food miles.

Quinoa flakes absorb three times their volume in liquid, just like oatmeal, so when making a porridge use the ratio of one part quinoa flakes to three parts liquid – either plain water or a combination of water and plant-based milk. I rarely say this but don’t worry too much about using the correct measuring tool. If you use the same mug for measuring the quinoa flakes and the liquid, the ratios will be correct. One large drinking mug of quinoa flakes will be enough for 2 hearty portions of porridge so work upwards from there.

I like this version with Comice pear, hazelnuts and hemp seeds. I added a little organic Blackstrap molasses for sweetness – it’s the nutritious part of the sugar-making process which contains all the minerals, is rich in iron and contains manganese (it helps us produce our energy from protein and carbohydrates). It tastes a bit like treacle.

So, whether you choose to keep your servings’ simple, top them off with nuts and berries or swirl in some marmalade or almond butter, quinoa porridge is a versatile and low effort way to start the day.

120g (1 cup) quinoa flakes (I buy mine from Hodmedods)
500ml (2 cups) water
250ml (1 cup) almond milk (or other plant-based milk)
Pinch sea salt

To Serve
2 tablespoons shelled hemp seeds (sometimes called hemp hearts).
2 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts
1 ripe Comice pear, peeled, cored and halved
Blackstrap molasses to taste

1. Rinse the quinoa flakes in a sieve under cold running water
2. Soak the quinoa flakes in the water and milk overnight in the fridge.
3. Place in a saucepan and bring to a simmer for 90 seconds, stirring continuously.
4. Remove from the heat, transfer to bowls. Add the pear, hempseeds, hazelnuts. Drizzle with molasses.

1. Rinse the quinoa flakes in a sieve under cold running water.
2. Place the flaked quinoa, water and almond milk in the slow-cooker. Stir it well. Put the lid on.
3. Place the slow cooker on low for 8 hours.
4. Wake up to warm porridge, season with a pinch of salt.
5. Transfer to bowls. Add the pear, hempseeds, hazelnuts. Drizzle with molasses.