November 9, 2015

There’s nothing we love more than a steamy, creamy, delicious bowl of porridge to warm us up on a cold winter’s morning. Queue 26 Grains, the brain child of Alex Hely-Hutchinson who arrived on the porridge scene at the age of 24 with her glorious porridge company, 26 Grains. We’re a big fan of the grain, and we’re all about piling scrumptious toppings on top of our breakfast bowls.

We took the time to catch up with Alex about the beginnings of her love affair with porridge, her new cookbook coming in 2016 and her top tips on how to make a bowl of your own delicious porridge.

UO: When and where did your love affair with porridge begin?

It must have begun when I was very little. My mum wasn’t a super cook, but I have these memories of all five of us kids sitting on her bed with bowls of porridge. However, porridge was quickly replaced by full english breakfasts and other exciting breakfast options as I grew up. After spending a year in Copenhagen I found my love of it all over again. They use all sorts of different grains with different tastes and textures and pair them with exciting spices and flavours.

UO: Which is your most indulgent and delicious porridge topping?

Probably our Hazelnut & Butter. I first heard of having butter on my porridge in Copenhagen when Rene Redzeppi from Noma first said, there’s nothing like a steaming bowl of really good quality grains with a knob of butter. I thought it sounded delicious, and created the Hazlenut & Butter porridge – Almond Milk Oats, Butter, Cinnamon Coconut Palm Sugar, Hazelnuts and Apple.

UO: Of all the grains, which is your favourite?

I always find this so difficult to answer! Oats are wonderfully sweet, creamy and indulgent. Millet has this wonderful bite and fresh taste. Barley is comforting and chewy and can hold a lot of flavours and spices. I can’t choose.

UO: What has been the highlight of your 26 Grains adventure so far?

Opening the shop has been such a highlight. It’s been amazing to have found a space in such a beautiful part of London (Neal’s Yard) and have a hub by which our customers and new faces can find us.

UO: What is the creation process for new porridge recipes?

For every dish I consider the grain, its taste and texture, whether its chewy or soft, sweet or herbacious and then pairing it with spices, creaminess, bite etc.

UO: What inspires you?

I am always so inspired the by people I work with, people who support us and people who are doing something they really believe in. There are so many different sides to running a business and it is people who can make it happen.

UO: Where do you want to take 26 Grains in 2016 and beyond?

It’s been a whirlwind so far and there are so many avenues we’d like to explore. One of the most exciting things for us next year is the launch of our first cook book!

Alex’s Hot Tips on how to create an amazing bowl of porridge:

1. Soak your oats!
We soak our oats overnight to remove the protective phytic acid layer that can cause all sorts of uncomfortable cramps and bloating. This also increases the vitamin and mineral availability that would otherwise be blocked by that very same coating.

2. Top quality sea salt
No matter which grains you’re using, I find that salt is the best way to bring the liquid and the grains together to make a well rounded bowl of porridge. My favourite sea salt is Halen Mon.

3. Real vanilla
You got to have the real deal, the little fleks of vanilla not only make it look amazing and earthy but also taste so much better than any vanilla essence or even extract.

4. Home made nut milk
So easy to make, a super source of good fats and taste so wonderfully creamy and delicious

5. Spices
Instead of reaching for a sweetener, try playing with different spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger

6. Carrot and Beetroot Juice
When iron rich foods are combined with foods high in vitamin c, they enhance each other’s properties. Oats are a particularly high source of iron and carrots and beetroots are a wonderful source of vitamin c. Try using half water, half juice, and maybe throw in a bit of ginger for some heat.