When I was young, my mother would often make me a hot breakfast that a lot of Caribbean kids have all grown up on, Cornmeal Porridge.
Talking with a lot of other people who have come from the Caribbean, they all say that they grew up on this stuff too.
Babies would be given a watered down version of this in their baby bottles, with a large hole cut out on the top to be able to suck it out of the bottle!
Parents would say that this was a hearty meal that made their babies grow up nice and healthy, “Big and strong, like a bull.”
It’s traditionally made with cornmeal, cinnamon, sugar and milk. Usually, it is made with evaporated or powdered milk mixed with water.
Why evaporated or powdered milk? These are staples in the Caribbean kitchen. Mainly because most of the smaller islands don’t have enough pasture for dairy farms and due to the hot climate, regular fresh milk would never keep for long.
Cornmeal porridge is quite a filling meal, made to fill you up and sustain you until lunchtime.
I had the opportunity to make a version of this breakfast for a running mate of mine. Let me tell you a little about Jorge.
Jorge is a guy I met through my neighbour. Our first conversation was about running. Jorge told me he was originally from Guatemala but had spent time living on the West Coast as well as in Italy where he would run in marathons and train by running in the Italian Alps.
He also told me he loves to eat. One of his weaknesses is food. Like most of us nowadays, he is trying to eat healthier and is always on the lookout for wholesome, nutritious meals.
Yesterday morning, Jorge came by to say hello, just as I was about to make my own version of Cornmeal Porridge for breakfast, so I invited him to stay and try it.
Corn originates from the Americas. A lot of Latin-American countries use corn in their everyday cooking. It has a lot of nutritional value and is a solid staple food.
My version of Cornmeal Porridge is made with all-natural ingredients: organic cornmeal, almond milk, natural cinnamon stick, pure extracts of vanilla and almond, and organic granulated sugar.
For you healthy eaters out there, that makes my Cornmeal Porridge gluten-free and dairy-free.
First of all you have to have good quality ingredients. I picked up my organic cornmeal in a local health food store. Nowadays you can often find it in the organic section of major grocery stores, or you if you’re having a hard time finding it, you could probably find it online.
You can also try looking for it in the bulk food store but you need to make sure that wherever you get it from is a store with a higher turnover rate, so you get a fresh product.
Like buying coffee, you need to check how finely ground it is. I prefer the fine ground, not the medium or coarse ground cornmeal because the finer ground gives you a creamier texture in your final product. Unless of course you like a really rustic grainy texture.
Nothing beats a real whole piece of cinnamon stick for flavour and aroma! If you are lucky enough to have a specialty spice store, or a store that specializes in Caribbean or Indian groceries in your area, then go for it! Or you can check out your local health food store, hopefully you can get some there.
I gave you the option of using ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon if you really can’t find cinnamon stick. In my quest for the best ingredients, I discovered Saigon Cinnamon last year, and it really packs a punch in terms of flavour and aroma! If your quest for cinnamon stick is too hard, then I highly recommend that you find yourself some Saigon Cinnamon. This is good stuff!
Almond milk, fresh is always best. It’s really not that hard to make fresh almond milk from whole almonds. I’ll show you how in a future post. This time around, I just used almond milk from the grocery store. When buying almond milk in the carton, I always try to choose the brand in the refrigerator section that is all natural, without too many additives. Who needs or wants added carrageenan? I mean, what exactly is carrageenan anyways?
As far as the other ingredients go…
I discovered organic granulated sugar in my grocery store. It has such a natural subtle sweetness that I love. You can also substitute honey or agave syrup, or even pure maple syrup would taste great in this, just be careful how much you use.
Lastly, please just try to use pure vanilla and almond extracts, instead of the artificial ones… the pure extracts always taste better!
So now that you have all of these amazing ingredients, how do you make this?
First, boil the cinnamon stick to release all of that delicious flavour. As it boils your kitchen wil start to smell great. Once the water turns brown, leave in the cinnamon stick, whisk in your cornmeal and immediately turn your heat down to low.
From here on in, you have to work quickly cause cornmeal cooks really fast.
Stir in the almond milk, almond extract, vanilla extract and organic granulated sugar.Keep stirring until it gets to your desired consistency. I like it nice and creamy. Add more almond milk if needed. Then serve immediately.
Jorge loved it.
He said it was not too sweet, it fills you up but doesn’t feel heavy, and is a breakfast he would make before or after a run because it’s a good recovery meal. Plus it is so easy to make.
You can serve this with some fresh fruit. We had it with sliced bananas and fresh berries.
For an extra-special treat at the end, one lucky person gets to have the cinnamon stick to suck on. Talk about flavour! I remember, when we were little, my sister and I always fought over who would get this. My family today, now shares that same tradition. If you love cinnamon, you will love this!
I hope you can enjoy this breakfast with your family or friends and experience a different kind of porridge.