Last winter on a flying visit to Beijing, I discovered how cold the capital can get, especially at night time. What I hadn’t been expecting, however, was how quickly the days turned from sunny and warm to downright cold.
In the UK, especially in the north of England and Scotland, the onset of winter is marked by porridge taking over as one of the main breakfast meals. This isn’t porridge as the Chinese know it; and it is nothing like congee.
Instead of rice being the basic ingredient, we use oats which are then cooked in a milk and water mix, often with the addition of butter, salt and cream. The Scots even pour a nip of whisky on top of the mix.
So I was delighted this week to discover that rolled oats are easily obtainable in China and to add to my delight, I have found an open market where you can buy dried pineapple, dried mango and dried banana for around 10 to 15 yuan a pound.
So now I start my day by pouring half a cupful of oats into a bowl, adding some sugar and dried fruit and then roughly one and a half times as much milk as oats. Sometimes, too, I add cinnamon. I “nuke” this in the microwave for about two minutes and end up with something that looks disgusting but tastes fabulous.
And best of all, it casts a warm glow throughout my body preparing me to face the vicious onslaught of the weather outside. Chinese winters? No problem with a good British breakfast inside!