Inspired by the breakfast bowl I ate at the 26 Grains cafe in London, I’ve got a Gluten-Free Banana Tahini Porridge to break your breakfast boredom! This bowl is healthy, hearty and a perfect mix of sweet and salty, but first, let’s explore!
When I first began outlining my cookbook, The Gluten-Free Grains Cookbook, I went down a rabbit hole of what is “healthy” and truly wondered – do people even eat grains anymore?! Had everyone abandoned grains for cauliflower rice and beet flours?
I often joked I was the last grainy girl in the world, but I had started to believe it, so it was extra comforting to discover the cafe 26 Grains via the beautifully minimal namesake cookbook. Owner and author Alex Hely-Hutchinson revived the idea of porridge into beautifully sweet and savory bowls that convinced me I wasn’t alone.
Neal’s Yard, London
So it was, when my friends and I were in London, I mentioned that, if possible, I’d like to go to the cafe, a grainy mecca of sorts. It turned out, we were staying pretty close, so Sunday morning breakfast was settled! Beyond connecting the book to cafe, this breakfast choice brought us to Neal’s Yard, a colorful inner plaza that feels like a secret discovery.
Apparently, Neal’s Yard was once a pretty derelict, forgotten space, but thanks to Nicholas Saunders, who opened a healthy foods market there and envisioned something greater, a vibrant community of businesses emerged. (Here’s a more detailed history of his efforts)
26 Grains is one of those businesses that emerged. It’s a small space that spills into the colorful “yard.” The cozy cafe feels very much like a nod to the owner’s time spent in Copenhagen, with neutral ceramics, the split-tone brick walls, gray plaster and natural decor.
Naturally, I had to get an almond croissant for the table. Lindsey went for the beautifully sculpted Avocado Toast on Sourdough Rye with Dukkah, and the fellas ordered the “Eggs, Tomato Chutney, Brioche (scrambled eggs, spiced tomato chutney, crispy garlic, basil and brioche bun), which I let them eat in peace without bothering them for a photo.
I wouldn’t normally order porridge at a restaurant, especially when it comes to porridge vs a brioche bun breakfast sandwich, but when porridge boasts tahini and cacao, my interest is piqued. One bite, and I was re-inspired by oatmeal, so much so, I’ve recreated a version of my own Gluten-Free Banana Tahini Porridge (recipe below).
More exploring in and around Neal’s Yard…
St. John Bakery | Neal’s Yard
Wine + Doughnuts?! What a heavenly idea! We were quite full from breakfast, but luckily, my traveling pal Zach shares my zeal for sweats, so we picked up a Date Walnut and Raspberry Jam Doughnut for later. The Date Walnut filling was so unique. It was perfectly nutty and sweet, and a real standout from the average doughnut menu! Given more time, my dream day would have included a loaf of the beautiful bread, a bottle of their French wine, cheese from the neighboring Neal’s Yard Dairy, and a long, slow picnic along the Thames. Alas… next time!
Neal’s Yard Dairy | Neal’s Yard
Landing at Neal’s Yard Dairy was another full circle moment. Last year, I met the Dairy’s managing director and partner, David Lockwood. David is also an esteemed cheese judge, and I had the privilege of meeting him at the American Cheese Society’s Festival of Cheese (a must for cheese lovers!).
David taught us about the intricacies of technical and artistic cheese judging, and he simultaneously made me feel like I had been eating on autopilot for most of my life. Unfortunately, the dairy was closed during my Sunday morning visit, so it’s a must for a return trip, but at least I had the chance to ogle those giant wheels in the window.
Tap Coffee No. 193 |193 Wardour St, Soho, London
If you’re not over caffeinated, are you even exploring a city?! Why not have a mid-morning espresso drink for the sake of walking into this surprise space? When that surprise space is Tap Coffee, you’re in for a real treat!
Walking through the front door felt like teleporting. It was moody and skylit with so much natural wood, including tree trunk tables. It looked like something from Japan or Scandinavia, and the noise and hustle of the city disappeared with the closing of the door.
Now to bring this experience home…
Gluten-Free Banana Tahini Porridge (Vegan Option)
About this Recipe:
Inspired by the breakfast bowl I ate at the 26 Grains cafe in London, this bowl is healthy, hearty and a perfect mix of sweet and salty. I recommend using gluten-free certified oats from One Degree Organic Foods. I support their transparency, their connection to farmers, and they test to make sure the grains are glyphosate free as well.
Yield: 2 servings
1 1/2 cups filtered water
a pinch of salt, plus more for serving
2/3 cup gluten-free, sprouted rolled oats (from One Degree Organic Foods)
dash of cinnamon, to taste
dash of cardamom, to taste
2 Tablespoons tahini
1 banana, sliced
2 Tablespoons or more cacao nibs, to taste
sesame seeds (regular or black), to taste
2 Tablespoons honey or maple syrup for vegan option
1 cup almond milk
Bring the water and salt to a boil. Add the oats. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 8-10 minutes, until the oats are thick and tender. As the oats are thickening, add the cinnamon, cardamom and tahini, and stir to combine.
Divide the oats between two bowls. Add cacao nibs, top with banana slices, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and drizzle 1 Tablespoon of honey or maple syrup over each bowl. Top with another dash of salt if you want to push the sweet and salty contrast. Pour half cup of almond milk around the sides of each bowl, and stir to combine.