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A Little Spice Goes a Long Way in This Vegan Breakfast Porridge

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Last fall, I met a friend in Hudson for brunch at Rivertown Lodge, where I ordered their quinoa and oat porridge, devoured it in record time, and have since spent months dreaming about it. I recently learned that the dish (and Rivertown’s entire menu) was created by Jean Adamson, owner of Vinegar Hill House in Brooklyn, who kindly shared the recipe with me. It read like many of the recipes in Gabrielle Hamilton’s Prune: ingredients listed in bulk quantities (e.g. 2 boxes of almond milk, 10 cardamom pods), and instructions written for a line cook, each component of the dish cooked separately, followed by what to do at “pick up.”

All these become a very satisfying breakfast. Photos by Alexandra Stafford

To make Jean’s porridge, the first step is to heat almond milk with cardamom and bay, ideally fresh bay, the flavor of which Jean has “always loved in sweet things like custard and ice cream.” (She makes a chilled muesli in the summer with the same infusion.) The next step is to cook oats and quinoa separately, then unite them with the now-infused almond milk. Just before serving, the porridge receives a showering of garnishes: toasted almonds, flaked coconut, and fresh berries or soaked prunes.

I’ve been making this porridge nearly every morning for breakfast since learning the recipe, and while it’s a bit more work than other cooked-from-scratch hot breakfast cereals, it’s well worth the effort. Also, a little mise en place goes a long way: with cooked quinoa stashed in the fridge and the garnishes prepped ahead, making this porridge amounts to cooking oats and heating some almond milk with a single crushed cardamom pod and half a bay leaf, which impart the porridge with the loveliest spiced and floral notes. Playing restaurant at home has its advantages: an aromatic, light but satisfying, perfectly sweet porridge that comes together in a snap.

Wake up and smell the coffee (and the bay leaf!)
Wake up and smell the coffee (and the bay leaf!) Photo by Alexandra Stafford

When I spoke with Jean over the phone earlier this week, in addition to sharing her recipe, she passed along some kitchen tips and wisdom:

  • Cook the oats and quinoa separately. The quinoa cooks in about 20 minutes and the rolled oats in 10, so it’s best to keep them separate or neither will be cooked properly. (As noted above, this may seem like too much work for porridge, but if you make a large batch of quinoa—i.e. 1 cup of dried quinoa—ahead of time, you’ll have enough on hand all week to stir into your morning oats (or your evening salads).
A good thing to do while listening to a podcast.
A good thing to do while listening to a podcast. Photo by Alexandra Stafford
Save a pot—cook quinoa ahead of time.
Save a pot—cook quinoa ahead of time. Photo by Alexandra Stafford
  • Don't fear fat. Jean always cooks oats with a little bit of fat. Here, it’s coconut oil—this porridge happens to be vegan (and gluten-free)—but if you’re not keeping vegan, it could certainly be butter.
Quinoa and Oat Breakfast Porridge

Quinoa and Oat Breakfast Porridge

Alexandra Stafford Alexandra Stafford
Serves 2 generously
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk, divided, see notes above
  • 1 cardamom pod, crushed with the flat side of a knife
  • 1/2 a bay leaf, fresh is best
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, red is nice for color
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats, extra-thick if you can find them, see notes above
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plust more to taste
  • toasted coconut, toasted almonds, fresh berries such as strawberries and blueberries, for garnish
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What's your favorite restaurant-adapted recipe? Let us know in the comments!

Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Breakfast, Vegan, Gluten-Free, Restaurants