Maple-Saffron Barley Porridge w/Date Compote

March 1, 2015

The grass is just never green where we’re growing, is it.

Boulder has enjoyed beautiful, spring like weather all winter and then the one week that it finally dumps snow like gangbusters, we all complain about the cold. How we’re ready for winter to be over. How we’re generally OVER it.

I’m looking forward to the promise of spring too. To riding my bike in the canyons with chirping birds and blossoms bursting. To not spending the 15 minutes warming up the car to slough off the ice that has collected in the door jams before driving it. To finally leave my heavy winter boots in the closet if I’m just running to the grocery store.

But, there are other reasons I’m glad the winter is sticking around. I want the excuse of “baby its cold outside” to lay in bed a little longer. My body isn’t done hibernating yet; I’m not yet ready for the weeks where we hit the mountains before the sun, day after day. It doesn’t have to be winter for me to justify drinking hot chocolate for breakfast, I suppose, but it sure does feel more appropriate. Maybe I just love the playfulness that the snow brings. And the extra time to bring out recipes – like this one – that I’ve meant to play with.

I’m a breakfast chameleon. In the summer, fresh breakfasts are what I crave. But on cold winter mornings I get to have warm breakfasts. Yes, to this point I know I’ve shared a bit about my favorite porridge + hot cereal recipes lately (as well as this grain cooking guide) but this recipe is a bit more than just throwing the best of what you have on hand into a bowl and chowing down. This maple-saffron barley porridge w/date compote is worth the forethought and worth sharing so here you are.

Blood Orange First Blood

Blood Orange Supremes

I was inspired by this beautiful breakfast evidently cooked up in a Norwegian campsite for a rustic Christmas celebration and ever since have had dreams of making this porridge in our own campsite. Soon enough I suppose, but for now, the translation of the inspiration to my kitchen looked something like this.

The maple-saffron porridge is excellent in itself, but the date + blood orange compote takes it to the next level. The recipe as I make it is vegan + gluten-free; I tweaked and swapped the dairy milk for almond milk, plugged in maple syrup, saffron + vanilla where the sugar used to be, and made my own date + blood orange compote. My Monday morning couldn’t have felt more special. It’s of note that my favorite way to make this porridge is in the rice cooker; you can even set it at night so you wake up to warm bowls first thing. This is attractive if you’re a short-cut kind of person (or just short on patience.) If you’re this sort of person, you could bypass the compote and then slice dates and blood oranges over the top as well, but the smell of dates + oranges cooking in your chilly morning kitchen is pretty darn divine.


Things not to shortcut: the vanilla bean, the pinch of saffron, and toasted pistachios. If you really can’t find blood oranges, use cara cara oranges as they also have a floral and dynamic flavor beyond that of a navel orange. Also a little crunchy toasted coconut. And, for a special flourish *maybe* a little shaving of white chocolate. (I know! Sin!) 

Enjoy! And stay warm and cozy out there! -xo L

Maple + Saffron Barley Porridge w/Date Compote
  1. for the date-blood orange compote
  2. 4 Tbsp maple syrup
  3. 1/3 cup blood orange juice
  4. 3-4 blood oranges or cara cara oranges
  5. 3/4 cup medjool dates, chopped
for the porridge
  1. 1/2 cup pistachio nuts
  2. 4 cups almond milk
  3. 3/4 cup pearled barley
  4. 1/2 tsp fine grain sea salt
  5. 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  6. 3 Tbsp maple syrup
  7. pinch of saffron
  8. 1/2 cup toasted unsweetened big flake coconut
  9. 2 oz good quality white chocolate, chopped (optional, for serving)
  10. yogurt, or whipped cream (optional, for serving)
For the compote
  1. Cut away the peel from the blood oranges (see images in body of text above) and cut the flesh into segments between the pith, reserving 1/3 cup of juice. If you don't get quite 1/3 cup, replace the remaining juice with warm water. In a nonreactive saucepan, bring orange juice and the remaining 4 Tbs. maple syrup and 1/2 cup chopped dates to a simmer over medium-low heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, and mashing the dates until they start to fall apart. Add the blood orange segments remaining chopped dates and simmer just 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Cover and chill if making ahead (up to 1 week), but bring to room temperature before serving.
  2. For the porridge
  3. Preheat oven to 350°. Toast pistachios and coconut on a rimmed baking sheet, separated. Bake until golden brown, 3-5 minutes. Let cool.
  4. Combine almond milk, barley, and salt in a medium saucepan. Scrape in vanilla seeds and add pod. Add the maple syrup and the pinch of saffron. (Conversely, you can do as I do and combine all of these ingredients in the bowl of your rice cooker and hit the start button.)
  5. On the stove, bring the barley mixture to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, stirring often and adding a little water if mixture gets too thick before barley is cooked, until barley is very tender and porridge is the consistency of oatmeal, 40–50 minutes. (The timing will be similar in the rice cooker.)
  6. Add white chocolate off the heat if using, and stirring to melt chocolate and dissolve sugar. Let cool. Remove vanilla pod. Stir in half of the pistachios.
  7. Serve in bowls topped with compote and remaining pistachios, coconut, and maybe another drizzle of maple and yogurt if you wish.

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