The past few years of lockdowns (self-imposed or not) have been challenging for most of us, but it’s not all bad news. They have also meant slowing down and taking stock. One positive for me was having a lot more time in the kitchen. Slower mornings have given me time to make things that would usually have been relegated to the weekend.

One of my breakfast staples is a cup (or two) of earl grey tea. I’ve never really warmed much to other black teas. All I can taste in the rest is smoke and bitter tannins. I like the bergamot in earl grey–it’s a bright ray of sunshine in an otherwise dark and stormy mug.

Photo by bublikhaus

Playing with flavours

In our house, another morning regular is oatmeal. But having the same topping day in and out can get old quickly, so with all of this extra time in the kitchen I’ve been playing around with different flavour combinations:

peanut butter and banana…

cacao and blueberries…

coconut and lime zest…

apple and cinnamon…

You get the picture: basically anything goes. Hands down my favourite newly-discovered flavour combination is kumquat jam and tahini. Tahini gives oatmeal a velvety texture and nuttiness, while the kumquat jam adds a beautiful zing. And what better way to complement the hint of citrus in earl grey than with another kind of citrus? Well, technically kumquat is not actually citrus, but it is closely related and for the purposes of eating the distinction feels a bit pedantic.

The current situation

Kumquat jam is a whole other story, but the blurb is that it’s a great way to preserve the fruit and tastes great on bread or in desserts. I made some jam half a year ago and right now there’s just one jar left on the shelf, so it looks like I’ll have to wait until later in the year when our trees are alive with fruit again. But never fear–for the rest of the year, and in lieu of kumquat jam, other varieties of marmalade also play nicely with tahini and oats.

The kumquat revelation

Actually, here’s an interesting aside. Did you know that kumquats are supposed to be eaten whole–skin and all? If you peel them first, you’re left with only the sour flesh, and it’s up there for squint-inducing foods. But all of the kumquat’s sweetness is concentrated in its peel, so if you pop one in your mouth all at once, you’ll get a smack across the face of sweet and sour. If you’ve always peeled your kumquats like me, then this detail is nothing short of a revelation. Since discovering the sweet peel, kumquats have become my favourite citrus.

Lockdown is a bit like the peel of that kumquat. Sometimes you just have to find the sweet side of life, the part that makes you look at everything else in a new, more positive light. You know what they say: when life gives you kumquats, make kumquat oatmeal.

Oatmeal with kumquat and tahini

Serves 2 Makes 2 bowls Cook Time: 15 minutes Total Time: 15 minutes
  1. 15 minutes
    • 0.5 cups rolled oats
    • 1.5 cups water
    • 1 tablespoon tahini hulled or unhulled
    • 1 teaspoon kumquat jam (or marmalade)
    • 1 large ripe banana mashed
    • 0.5 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 2 tablespoons yogurt or milk kefir (optional)
    1. 5 minutes
      Boil water Add the water to a pot and bring it to the boil.
    2. 1 minute
      Add oats Add the oats to the pot and stir them into the water.
    3. 5 minutes
      Simmer Lower the heat and let the oats simmer, stirring them occasionally to prevent sticking.
    4. 2 minutes
      Cool Turn off the heat and let the oats stand for a few minutes to cool and thicken.
    5. 1 minute
      Add flavours Stir the tahini, mashed banana and kumquat jam into the oatmeal.
    6. 1 minute
      Serve Serve with a dusting of cinnamon, and a dollop of yogurt or milk kefir.

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