Posts Tagged oatmeal

Slow, slow oatmeal

Readers of this blog will know that steel-cut oatmeal has revolutionized my winter breakfasts, especially after I found a low-risk, low-maintenance way of getting the perfect taste and texture, precooking things in advance and letting them sit around to plump up nicely overnight. This year I got more adventurous, but also even lazier, and the oatmeal is, if anything, even more perfect. It’s a high-fibre, filling and low(ish) calorie way to start the day, and it keeps me going until mid-morning at least, especially if I add a few walnuts to add a protein filler. The secrets? A $20 slow cooker from the discount kitchen store, a selection of different grains to supplement the oats, far more liquid than you ever think you’ll need and patience.

The recipe is infinitely flexible, but here’s roughly what I do. Each batch lasts me for a week or so, maybe a bit less if I feel particularly hungry in the mornings.

Slow-cooked steel-cut oatmeal
generous half cup of steel-cut oats
skimpy one-third cup of other grains (I’ve used tef, amaranth and very small amounts of freekah so far, with amaranth at the top of the list for taste and texture)
2-3 cups water
1-2 cups other liquid (apple cider, coconut milk, milk, depending on mood)
generous pinch of salt

Put all the ingredients in the slow cooker and cook on low for 3-4 hours. Stir once in the middle if you remember. Allow to cool in the cooker and then store the porridge in a tupperware in the fridge. Come breakfast time, spoon out a portion into a bowl and reheat it in the microwave. Then add fruit and nuts, perhaps some cocoa nibs for bitterness and a generous splash of milk, buttermilk, yogurt or home-made kefir (which curdles slightly in the hot oatmeal). You could add honey/sugar/maple syrup too, or even jam, but I find the apple cider offers enough sweetness for my taste.

oat

The Guardian describes tef (an Ethiopian cereal) as “the next big supergrain,” while HuffPost gives a similar moniker to freekah (wheat that’s harvested when it’s still green and then cracked and roasted), dubbing it “the next hot supergrain“. HuffPost also offers “14 reasons to eat amaranth” (an eat-everything plant — the dark green leaves are used in Caribbean cooking and known as callaloo), and says cocoa nibs are “even better for you than dark chocolate.” How can I go wrong?

I’d note I don’t like to add too much freekah, because it adds a very wheaty taste to the finished cereal. I get a wheaty taste from bread; I like my oatmeal to taste mostly of oats.

Anyone got other ideas to jazz up oatmeal?

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Oatmeal with a twist

I like a wholegrain breakfast ahead of the work day, or (even better) as a line-the-stomach venture before a bike ride or a ski trip. I do hot breakfasts in the winter, and cold ones in the summer, when I just throw oats together with buttermilk and fruit and pretend it’s low-cal muesli without the nuts.

For winter warmth, steel cut oats were my big discovery a few years back, especially after I realized that all you need to do is boil them up with water, cover the pan and let the porridge sit overnight to thicken up. The next day you spoon a portion into a bowl and nuke it warm.

Then I flirted with farro, which is higher in protein and more nutritious than oats. I like it a lot, and kept going for a couple of months of breakfasts.  But even after I tried whirring the pre-soaked grain around in the food processor for a few seconds to speed up the cooking time, farro takes forever to cook, and I meandered back to the steel cut oats. Depending on my mood, and on what I have in the house, I add a sliced up banana, a handful of raisins or cranberries, along with a splash of buttermilk, and I’m ready for the day.

But the oatmeal I tried at a Tucson cafe this week might just have transformed my life. Instead of using water or milk to cook their steel cut oats, Liv Cafe at the north of the city, cooks oats in apple cider, for a sweet-but-not-sweet start to the day.

I don’t know what proportions Liv uses for its oatmeal, but here is what I did.

Steel cut oats with apple cider
1 cup steel cut oats
2 cups water
2 cups apple cider (not the alcoholic kind, if there are any Brits reading this)
generous pinch of salt

Bring the oats and liquid to a boil and then switch off the heat, stir the porridge and cover overnight. Store in the fridge, and reheat a portion as you want it.

Serve with fruit, yogurt, milk, cream, nuts, spices. The choice is yours.

Ever so easy, and oh, so good.

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Fun with farro

I’m not sure which particular bucket I’ve been burying my head under for the last few years, but I for one had never heard of farro, the high-protein it grain of 2008 or so (or so the Internet tells me).

But a rider on a bike trip I just came back on swore by it as the breakfast fuel to die for, and given that steel cut oats revolutionized my life when I discovered then a few years back, I thought it had to be worth a try.

I admit it doesn’t look like much — it’s a whole grain that was available at Rube’s Rice in Toronto’s St Lawrence Market – and the cooking process was every bit as long as the Internet recipes said it would be.

But I think I could get hooked on this one, if I can find the time to cook it ahead of time and microwave it back to life in the mornings.

Here’s what I did, in a combination of recipes and invention, because, as anyone who reads this blog knows, following recipes is not my strong point.

Breakfast farro with oats

1/2 cup farro
2 cups water
1 can coconut milk
a handful of dried bananas
a handful of quick cook oatmeal

I brought the water/farro mix up to the boil, switched the pot off and left it, covered, to sit on the stove overnight. That’s the way I cook steel-cut oats and it’s the perfect lazy way to make that work. It doesn’t work quite like that for farro, and by morning the grains were no longer tooth-cracking hard. But they were still a long way from being cooked. So I threw in a can of coconut milk and some very old dried bananas (one of the recipes I was looking at the previous day talked of coconut/banana/faro combination as being an especially good one) and simmered the whole mix gently for another 20 minutes or so.

That seemed to do the trick for the farro, but the mix was somewhat sloppy, and I didn’t really want to throw the excess liquid away, as another of the internet recipes suggested. What about oats to thicken things up?

Add oats, simmer for another five minutes, and there you have it. Four portions of breakfast, one for immediate consumption and three for later (I offered a taste to the spouse, and he rejected the idea). I think it would work with any dried fruit, or with fresh fruit too. You could add milk, or buttermilk, or yogurt too. And the coconut milk is optional too. You could just use water, or maybe even milk. Not sure about the milk. A lot of boiling for that one.

Easy. Honest. And tastes really nice.

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