Add porridge oats to a pan and mix in the cinnamon. Add milk, apple sauce, and heat slowly on the hob stirring continually.
When porridge has reached desired thickness, remove from heat. If too thick, add a little more milk or water and keep on the hob until the consistency is right for you. (I like mine to be textured, but fairly runny.)
Empty the porridge into an ovenproof bowl and stir well to ensure that the bowl’s sides are slightly coated. Place under the grill on a low heat until the surface has set slightly and then leave to cool for at least 5 minutes. For best results, try and allow the porridge to form a 'film' or 'skin.'
Dust the porridge evenly with caster sugar, ensuring that the surface is completely covered and that the sides are coated.
Return the bowl to a medium hot grill and check after around 1-2 minutes of cooking. The lid should be a very light golden brown, and quickly turn solid when removed from the heat (give it a tap). If it doesn’t, pop it back under for another minute or until this effect is achieved.
Leave to cool for a further 2 minutes (if you can wait that long), and then devour.
1. If you have the time, and/or patience, porridge oats really love a good soak. Let them sit in a pan of milk for an hour or so if you can - you'll notice the added creaminess if you do.
2. Don’t rush the initial grill. The reason behind this step is to give the sugar something to rest on; almost a film. If the surface isn’t hardened, the sugar will dissolve straight into the oats and the lid won’t anywhere near as crunchy. If you overcook the porridge at this stage, and the surface catches under the heat, you can always give the bowl a stir and have another shot at it.
3. Ensure you allow the surface to cool between grilling. If you don’t, the final product won’t have that crucial ‘crunch.’
4. When heating the caster sugar, don’t be tempted to overcook. Perfect crunch relies on the sugar granules not completely caramelising – you should still be able to see the grains if you look closely, and the colour will be a very light golden brown. The 'solidifying' won't occur straight away, and the sugar needs to oxidise away from the heat in order to get really hard (Heston eat your heart out!) and crystalise. You should be able to give it a good tap with a spoon without the surface breaking, once it's ready. If the sugar is overcooked, it will be a lot darker in colour since it has fully caramelised. Whilst this works nicely on a crème brulee, because the oats are still hot in this recipe, the caramel won’t become cold enough to set and the syrup is likely to be reabsorbed into the porridge itself.
Make it healthier:
Ditch the apple sauce and cinnamon, and add ginger or nutmeg instead.
Don’t be tempted to substitute the sugar with sweetener… it just won’t work, and quite frankly, defeats the purpose of the whole thing. Yes I know 15 grams seems like a lot for one person, but with a breakfast as sinless as porridge, even the most saintly amongst us has significant room to manoeuvre.