Breakfast is a meal that I expect to work hard for its money (nutritionally speaking that is!). I’m very attached to the idea that if I start off with a good healthy breakfast then the rest of the day (food and everything else) will magically fall into place. A fruit smoothie for breakfast is a very tempting idea but it doesn’t really do it for me in practice – my stomach starts looking round for its next snack far too soon (I’ve no idea how those people who live on black coffee until lunchtime cope). I’m confident now that it isn’t just me being greedy because one of the top purveyors of smoothies in the UK, Innocent, have come up with a clever solution to exactly this problem: the Breakfast Thickie. Fruit, honey and yogurt blended with a handful of oats to make something substantial enough to call itself a Breakfast. I’d happily buy an Innocent Thickie every day (I can’t even whinge about creating unnecessary packaging as they are in a fully compostable “eco-bottle”) but Innocent only make one flavour at the moment (Raspberry and Blueberry) which although lovely is starting to get a bit dull, not to mention expensive.
Rhubarb is the “in” fruit in the UK at moment (by virtue of being the only fruit actually growing in the country). I don’t think anybody eats rhubarb raw (I could be wrong?) and so my technique for rhubarb is to roast it in a big batch with a sprinkling of sugar and to munch through that gradually during the week. I’m into rhubarb for breakfast at the moment; tart rhubarb plus creamy porridge is fantastic (I’m even considering freezing a few batches ready for the Autumn). But then the weather got a bit warm for porridge hence my first attempt at making a thickie, with roasted rhubarb and little stem ginger for added wake-you-up feistiness.
I’m sure you could try many different fruits and flavourings for a thickie, and the great thing is that all of them will work equally hard. By the time you’ve finished a thickie you will:
- have already had at least one of those five portions of fruit and veg (possibly closer to two)
- have eaten a bone-friendly portion of calcium-rich but low-fat yogurt
- feel happily full until late morning because of those low GI oats, even more so if you use low GI agave nectar instead of honey
- be busily lowering your cholesterol levels, thanks again to those oats
I love rhubarb but for anybody reading who is like my other half and thinks that rhubarb is just a bit tart, you can sweeten the thickie with a bit more honey or a little agave nectar. Agave nectar is an ingredient I was introduced to by Heidi Swanson’s new book, Super Natural Cooking. It’s a little like honey (slightly runnier) but made from the Tequila Agave plant. No bees required so vegan-friendly, if you ever need a vegan alternative to honey for a recipe. It’s a bit of a health-food store ingredient and I would normally just use a dollop of honey but I like the idea of using agave nectar in this recipe because it is low GI like the oats, and so hopefully adds to the ability of the thickie to outlast its smoothie competitors until late morning and beyond! The other way of reducing the impact of the rhubarb is to loosen the texture of the thickie using milk rather than the orange juice suggested in the recipe.
Recipe for Rhubarb and Ginger Thickie
Serves 2 to 3
Before you start you will need to roast a batch of rhubarb (chopped into 2 inch pieces and sprinkled with sugar) at a moderate oven temperature for about 15 minutes. This is a leisurely task that you can do a day or a few days before and keep in the fridge, using some for the thickie and some for other things.
4 tablespoons of oats
5 tablespoons roasted rhubarb (cooled)
150ml fresh orange juice
1 ball of preserved stem ginger
300g low-fat organic plain yogurt
Honey or agave nectar to sweeten
Place the oats in a blender, food processor or smoothie maker and blitz until they are in small pieces (porridge oat texture).
Add the rhubarb and ginger and blitz again, then the yogurt.
At this stage it is a case of adjusting the thickie to personal preference. Add orange juice (or milk) until it is just sloppy enough to be able to drink out of a glass, then sweeten to taste.
If you have any left you can make it look pretty by drizzling over a little bit of the pink rhubarb juices.