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The run-up to Christmas can be a stressful time, so Gastrono-me’s Gemma Simmonite has come up with a comforting chocolatey breakfast that’s a warming hug in a bowl guaranteed to set you up for the day ahead

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With all the rushing around that December can bring I wanted to bring to you a recipe this month that would deliver a little sustenance and comfort.

It’s very easy with end-of-year work deadlines or with ferrying children to various festive events that you can end up neglecting yourself. Rushing out the door with other things on your mind can make breakfast a distant memory, only to then find you’ve got to early evening and realise you haven’t actually eaten anything at all! Not good.

So, it was with this in mind I decided to share with you our new Dark Chocolate Porridge recipe for you to try at home. If you find the time to make this comforting bowl, I promise it is the perfect way to start nourishing you for the day and also part way to filling you with a little festive cheer, especially if your cheer-o’meter is maybe running a little low. Yes, it is the most wonderful time of year, but blinking heck it can be stressful, too!

Dark Chocolate Porridge (53584769)
Dark Chocolate Porridge (53584769)

I devised this warming dish recently for our new breakfast menu at the restaurant. We’ve always had a porridge on the menu because I’ve always known that not everyone wants a blow-out in the morning (which we’re kinda known for!) and sometimes the simplest of things can be the most welcome. So instead of the traditional porridge that we serve with a delicious blackberry and orange compote, perfect for warmer months, my mind turned to creating this deep, dark and warming hug in a bowl. Ideal for the deep, dark mornings and wintery days on their way to us.

Oats as we know are literal powerhouses of energy that keep working on our vitality levels long after we’ve eaten them. They naturally lower our cholesterol and are a completely heart healthy food, plus they’re naturally low in saturated fats. Now you may say, but this is a chocolate porridge? Surely that negates the good effects. Wrong, we make this with a 90 per cent cocoa powder, which is naturally high in zinc, iron and selenium, all of which assist in giving your depleted immune system a much-needed boost, especially at this time of year when lurgies and sniffles are doing the rounds and when we’re possibly a little tired out.

We make our porridges at Gastrono-me with oat milk as it’s yet another nice vegan addition to the menu, but of course you could substitute with cows’ milk or indeed soya milk if preferred. We sweeten the oats just a little with a high-grade maple syrup, but if you wanted an even cleaner sweetener, you could use agave syrup, which is naturally low in glucose and doesn’t hoik blood sugar levels too much. It’s completely delicious to boot if you haven’t tried it yet. But without trying to sound too much like Will Ferrell in Elf, I really do love maple syrup, and

its roasted dark sweet notes really accentuate this porridge.

Our other secret to this delicious bowl – well not so secret now – is that we stir in just a little dark chocolate at the end of the cooking process. . . not a chunk of Dairy Milk or Galaxy I hasten to add, but a high percentage cocoa solids finest dark chocolate chunk, naturally loaded in polyphenols, flavanols and antioxidants. Who knew that chocolate could be so very beneficial to our health? And then if that wasn’t enough, we amp up the goodness even further by topping up this power porridge with fresh blueberries, vibrant pomegranate arils and flaked almonds.

When taste testing this in the kitchen with the team, which I always do, the consensus was that it reminded them all of something nostalgic from their childhood, and yet the taste was something altogether grown up.

I really hope you take the time over the next couple of weeks to make this, even if time is pressured and nerves are a little shredded. Because it’s important to remember to take the time to nurture yourself, and to ensure you actually get to enjoy the run up to this busy season.

My next column isn’t until January, so I hope that you all have a simply wonderful Christmas time. If you are finally getting together with friends and family this year, make sure to cherish every second of it, especially after the recent segregation we’ve all been through.

But if you are spending it alone, please know that wherever you are there is always someone to talk to. Everyone out there has experienced a less than ideal Christmas, and we know that as well as a magical time it can also be a very bittersweet melancholy time. I think just holding onto the thought that sometimes it will be wonderful and other times not so much can go some way to taking the pressure off. Christmases can come in many shapes and forms, and it doesn’t have to be the picture-perfect scene by any means.

So, whichever form your Christmas takes, may I wish you peace, health and happiness, and I very much look forward to sharing 2022 with you very soon.

It’s good to talk:






(Serves 4)


150g porridge oats

1 litre almond milk, or milk of your choice

2-3 teaspoons of good quality cocoa powder

3 tablespoons of maple syrup

50g of dark chocolate, I favour Divine organic exceptionally rich 95 per cent cocoa bar. Make sure to seek out a Fairtrade chocolate that helps to support farmers and their rights

For topping:



Flaked almonds


Put the oats in a pan with the milk, cocoa powder and maple syrup, and cook over a medium heat stirring continually until thick and creamy.

Add the dark chocolate cut into small chunks and stir vigorously until fully melted.

Top with pomegranate, blueberries and flaked almonds, and maybe a further drizzle of maple syrup. . . well it is Christmas!

Gemma is executive chef and co-creator of Gastrono-me, Abbeygate Street, Bury St Edmunds

Call 01284 277980

Visit gastrono-me.co.uk