Growing up at the Baltic Sea, I’ve really come to miss the ocean, moody days and nordic beach landscapes here in Istanbul. Every time I go back home to visit, everything has changed, most of my friends moved away but the cooling sea breeze and smell of the smashing waves still makes me feel like this is the home I’ve never left. I never realise how much I miss it until I’m there again. As a child and teenager I would always feel most comfortable by the sea and I would never get bored looking out to the horizon. Most summers we would spend our days at the beach, mostly swimming and sunbathing, sometimes playing volleyball or learning how to windsurf. I would walk the shore and collect shells and stones only to through them back to the sea at the end of the day. There, I imagined the beautiful jewelry I could make with my finds or the artsy collages I could create. The sea always got my thinking and imagining and visualizing. Today I still feel like the ocean is the only place where my thoughts can run free. No limitations, no obligations – just an empty head that wants to be filled with ideas.
On my latest trip to the Baltic States I had a few moments like these. Moments that allowed me to forget about my hectic life in Istanbul, my job that takes up too much of my energy and the expectations I somehow think must be met.
It was there that I decided I wanted to share my own recipes of meals that I had eaten or gotten to know during my travels. The first dish I wanted to recreate was a breakfast I had in Riga. Now if you think of Riga, you probably think of the medieval old town, art nouveau architecture, beautiful churches and all the museums. At least, that’s what I had in mind before I visited Riga, the capital of Latvia. Something certainly didn’t come into my mind when I planned our tour: a hipster food scene. Though the second we arrived in Riga, our taste buds got spoiled, our culinary senses delighted and our eyes pampered. Riga’s food scene ranges from classic Latvian cuisine (think fish and meat) to contemporary takes on international dishes with a Latvian twist. The latter is what we ate over and over again and loved so much about Riga’s food scene. And so one morning we went to one of those hipster coffee places and were served oatmeal with fennel, white chocolate and a berry sauce. Not vegan initially but now veganized by me, this white chocolate and fennel porridge is everything you expect but it is so much more. The fennel gives the porridge an aromatic licorice flavor, the white chocolate adds sweetness and the berry sauce and cherries fruity freshness.
White Chocolate and Fennel Porridge
- 1 cup / 90 g oats
- 1 cup / 230 ml water
- 3/4 cup / 180 ml rice mylk (or any other plant based mylk)
- 1 teabag of fennel tea
- a few drops vanilla extract
- 3-4 pieces of vegan white chocolate
- 1 cup 7 150 g strawberries
- 1/2 cup / 100 g pitted cherries
- Bring water to boil in a pan and remove from stove
- Add tea bag and allow to steep for 2-3 minutes (depending on your preferred intensity of the fennel taste) you can remove the tea bag earlier or later
- Put pan back on the stove, add rice mylk and vanilla extract, bring to boil again
- Add oats and stir and cook for 2-3 minutes – turn heat down and let the porridge thicken for another 2-3 minutes or until thick and creamy
- In a food processor or blender, purée strawberries
- With a knife cut white chocolate into thin small pieces
- Cut pitted cherries in halves
- Divide porridge between bowls and top with strawberry sauce, cherries and white chocolate (I recommend spreading the chocolate on the cherries and sauce as well otherwise it melts too quickly on the warm porridge)