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4 Time Winner

Oatmeal Porridge Tested Recipe

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Oatmeal Porridge Recipe

As a child, cold winter mornings would often begin with the wonderful smell of oats cooking on the stove. Once that steaming bowl of hot porridge was placed before me I would dress it with a spoonful of soft brown sugar and, if we were lucky, rich cream that had been skimmed off the top of the milk. The porridge of my youth, made with rolled oats, is not what I eat today. Then, my mother used 'rolled' oats which are oats that have been cleaned, toasted, hulled, steamed and then flattened into flakes and, depending on the thickness of the flakes, are labeled either 'old-fashioned' or 'quick-cooking' (old-fashioned being thicker than quick cooking). Today I make my porridge with 'steel-cut' Irish Oatmeal which has a hearty oat flavor and chewy, not mushy, texture. 


Steel-cut oatmeal and rolled oats look very different from each other, for steel-cut means the oats are 'cut' not 'rolled', so instead of flakes of oats you have tiny hard bits of golden oatmeal (think of mini rice particles). Of course, it is always nice to consult an expert when making a new dish, so for advise on making a good bowl of porridge I turned to Marian McNeill and her cookbook Recipes from Scotland. Her advise is sound; start with a good quality oatmeal, fresh spring water (or at least filtered), and a thick bottomed pot. Boil the water and then add the oatmeal by "letting it fall in a steady rain from the left hand whilst you stir it with the right". Add a little salt and then cook the oatmeal until it is of good taste and quality, usually between 20 - 30 minutes. Do not overcook or you will end up with a "gluey, flavourless mess". The interesting part of her instructions is how you should eat your porridge. She tells us to have two bowls; one bowl for the porridge and another bowl for cold milk or cream. You are to first dip your spoon in the porridge and then take the spoonful of hot porridge and dip it into the cold milk. This has the delicious contrast of hot oatmeal and shocking cold milk. It is little wonder that she refers to porridge as "food for the gods". 

In North America, the most readily available 'steel-cut' Irish Oatmeal is 'John McCann's Irish Oatmeal'. It is sold in 28 ounce (783 gram) metal canisters. You can find this brand at some grocery stores, most specialty food stores or on-line. 

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Oatmeal Porridge Recipe: In a medium sized saucepan bring the 4 cups of water to boil.  Sprinkle the oatmeal over the boiling water, stirring constantly to prevent any lumps from forming.  Add the salt and reduce the heat to low and allow the porridge to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve with brown or white sugar and rich milk or cream.

Leftovers can be covered and refrigerated for another morning.  To reheat, simply add a little hot water or milk to thin out the porridge and then place in the microwave or in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water until warm.

Makes 4 servings.

Oatmeal Porridge Recipe:

4 cups (1 liter) water

1 cup (180 grams) steel-cut Irish Oatmeal

1/4 teaspoon salt

For Garnish:

Brown or White Sugar and Rich Milk or Cream

References: John McCann's Irish Oatmeal

Davidson, Alan. The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Mariani, John F. The Dictionary of American Food & Drink, New Haven and New York: Ticknor & Fields, 1983.

McNeill, F. Marian. 'Recipes from Scotland'. The Albyn Press. Edinburgh: 1946.

Norwak, Mary. 'The English Farmhouse Kitchen'. Follett Publishing Company. Chicago: 1975.




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