29 Jan For the Love of Porridge – Seed & Grain
An Interview with Erin Murnane – Seed & Grain Porridge and Granolas
And then she went to the porridge of the little, small, wee bear, and tasted that; and that was neither too hot nor too cold, but just right. — Robert Southey — Goldilocks and The Three Bears (1837)
My Surf Coast Life & Co first came across Erin Murnane – porridge enthusiast and owner of Seed & Grain Porridge – at the Torquay Farmers Market, and have been indulging our all-seasons oat and assorted grain fetish with a newfound fervour ever since.
Now we don’t need this list of porridge aficionados to entice us to dive into a king-sized bowl of the stuff – Hugh Jackman, Madonna, Wallace and Gromit, Nicole Kidman, Kylie Minogue, Bill Gates, Nelson Mandela, Demi Moore, Kate Moss and Jane Fonda – the proof’s already in the pudding at our house. We’ve been on board the porridge choo-choo train since Christopher Robin was a boy. It’s just that Seed & Grain have taken all things porridge, rolled oats and granola to the next level.
Before we begin talking in earnest with our favourite Surf Coast breakfast queen, we’re loving this from Dr Christoffer van Tulleken – infectious diseases doctor at University College London Hospitals and of BBC2’s Trust Me I’m a Doctor fame – who urges everyone to ‘Forget those trendy probiotic drinks – just eat more porridge!’
So, without further ado – we visit the source, and speak with Erin Murnane for the lowdown.
MSCL – OK, Erin – Now, we have a touch of tartan flowing about our veins, to which we accredit our love of the stuff. And if you’ll pardon the upfrontedness of our first question: Why porridge? What’s the story?
ERIN – I tire of certain foods quickly, and am drawn to versatile dishes that I can change up easily. I guess that’s part of the reason behind porridge. I can constantly change the flavour by adding spices, choosing different milks and grains to cook with, and different seasonal toppings.
One other reason for porridge, is my time spent living in the UK. Unlike most people, I love the cold, dreary weather – partly due to the fact I can sit in bed eating a steamy hot bowl of porridge! A couple of porridge cafes popped up while I was over there; and after a trip to Copenhagen, I spent the majority of my time as a frequent visitor to a porridge cafe called GROD. I wanted to start a business when I moved back to Australia, and porridge ticked all the boxes for me.
MSCL – We know you do more than ‘just porridge’ – as if that’s not enough – because we are lovers of your granolas also. The Toasted Tahini and Maple is our current addiction. Without giving away any trade secrets, how do your granola and porridge production processes differ?
ERIN – I have a background as a food scientist and dietitian, and I’ve tried to carry my knowledge from both areas into Seed & Grain. My porridge-making differs from the usual process, because I hand roll the oats myself. Hand-rolling helps keep the flavour and nutrition in tact; the result is a creamier porridge. My granola differs from many others on the market, because I have developed a recipe which is lower in sugar and fat than other brands. In fact, it’s actually the recipe I give to my clients when they want to make their own granola at home.
MSCL – We first found you in the middle of a Surf Coast bleak, mid-winter when we taste tested your scrumptious tumeric porridge blend, and have been converts ever since. With so many health and food trends floating about the place, how do you decide what ingredients to incorporate into your Seed & Grain blends?
ERIN – I try to avoid trends wherever possible, and to keep it simple with well-known flavour combinations. I’ll come up with an idea of what I want to put into a blend, and then work with it for a few weeks, tweaking the recipe until I’m happy with the result. The idea of the turmeric and coconut porridge blend actually came from trying to create a Scandinavian-inspired porridge using a variety of spices, and playing on the idea of a savoury-sweet product.
MSCL – We love your packaging. What went into the design of it? Did you play a part?
ERIN – Thank you. I love it, too. It was a bit of a lengthy process, but I’m so happy with the end result. I met with a great graphic designer — Tim Baker (studiobaker) — in July last year, and explained what I envisaged for my new branding and packaging, and then pretty much left the design up to him.
MSCL – As a self-start small business owner and operator, what inspires you? What keeps you motivated?
ERIN – One of the greatest lessons I’ve learnt from having a self-start business is that it can be hard to stay motivated. I’m pretty lucky, because I’ve met a number of other people in a similar position who help keep me motivated; they’re very supportive, and are always keen to help where they can. My customers are great motivators, too. Every week at the farmers markets regular and new customers come to me to say hello and to share a few words of encouragement. When you’re having a bad week, and wondering what you’ve got yourself into, it can make a big difference. I also listen to a lot of motivational books and podcasts while I’m driving, and search out inspirational stories about other small business owners.
MSCL – What’s your vision for the future for Seed & Grain?
ERIN – The ultimate Seed & Grain goal is to own a small porridge cafe in Melbourne, where I’d be able to serve porridge every day. I’d love to use that space to hold workshops where I could teach people to use more seeds and grains in everyday cooking. I’d eventually love to put together a Seed & Grain cookbook. We’ll see what happens.
MSCL – Off the grid – or grain – for a sec, and purely out of interest: What are you listening to right now? We ask everybody this!
ERIN – Sampha – Process – and a band called Flyte I used to listen to a lot while I was living in the UK.
MSCL – And reading? And watching?
ERIN – I just finished reading The Dry by Jane Harper and am about to read her second book, Force of Nature. I’m watching Peaky Blinders.
MSCL – We’re guessing Peaky’s a fan of porridge, too? Not sure where to run with that, so we’ll leave it to mere speculation. So…other than the Torquay Farmers Market, where else can we find you? Or purchase Seed & Grain products locally?
ERIN – Seed & Grain can be found at the South Geelong Farmers Market the first and third Sunday of every month. I also have a stall at the Flemington Market every second and fourth Sunday. Peach’s Torquay is the first local business to support me and to sell my products in their store, for which I am very grateful. Over the next few months I hope to expand the Seed & Grain brand, and – all going well – you’ll be able to find my products in Geelong and Melbourne soon, too.
MSCL – Thank you so much for talking with us, Erin. We’d better let you get back to that oat press. We’d be devastated if the supply ever fell short.
Like so many amazing Surf Coast local business success stories, we have a pretty good feeling that Seed & Grain will rock it to Goldilocks fame in the not too distant future. All good things, Erin, for your future endeavours. As you well know, we’re hooked!
MSCL – Oh, and before we close – is there any chance you’ll be making bigger bags of the stuff soon?
ERIN – Thank you so much for asking me to be a part of your community. And yes, there’s a good chance. I’ve had requests from a number of customers about larger bags – which would certainly reduce waste. It’s something I’m currently looking into, and hope to start rolling out bigger bags sometime early this year.
MSCL – We’re also into the waste-reduction thing. It’s more about content, for us. My Surf Coast Life hungry bears can very easily polish off a bag of Seed & Grain anything and everything over the course of a few days, so jumbo-size is the call from us, please!
We’re off to eat porridge…
Find out more about Erin’s Seed & Grain Porridge products here Seed & Grain
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