When I was a kid I hated porridge, oatmeal, cream of wheat, and all the other boiled grain goops I had to eat. Because it is cheap and easy to prepare at work, I’ve grown to appreciate Quaker flavoured instants oatmeals (but even then, it is fuel, not a meal to indulge in). It is my belief that if a food has been around for decades or centuries and you don’t like it, chances are you simply haven’t had it prepared well. Which means, someone somewhere must make a tasty oatmeal. Thus, during our trip to Scotland, I declared that I was going to find some proper Scottish Porridge, and I would see if I still didn’t like it after having it done right.
We lucked out and stayed just down the road from the delightful Edinburgh Larder. There I had a simple oatmeal with cinnamon and raisins. And my theory stood up – done properly, oatmeal is delicious.
So, when we got back to Canada, I made it my job to learn to cook a tasty oatmeal. The Guardian provided a good starting point. After some trial and error, here’s what we’ve been cooking breakfast almost once a week all winter long.
Matt’s Scottish Porridge
- 1 cup milk
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 cup large flake oats
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- pinch ground cardamon
- Milk (just a bit)
- Raisin (optional)
- Dried Appricots (optional)
- Dried Dates (optional)
- Put the milk and water into a medium pot, and heat over medium heat, stirring (almost) constantly with the handle end of a wooden spoon (this’ll make sense later).
- While the liquids are heating, dry fry the oats over medium-low heat in a cast iron frying pan. After five to ten minutes they’ll smell toasty and start to brown lightly. Once they do, add them slowly to the (hopefully now almost boiling) liquids. Don’t wait too long. As I found out once, the line between “nicely toasted” and “horrible charred mess” is very thin and gets crossed very quickly – better to err on the side of caution. Use the ‘spoon’ end of the wooden spoon stir the oats, don’t let them sit too long or they’ll cross that line – and don’t get them wet & soggy while frying (hence the other end of the spoon).
- Once you’ve added the oats to the liquid, keep stirring with the handle end of the spoon. In Scotland they have a special kitchen utensil called a spurtle just for stirring oatmeal – it’s a wooden spoon without the spoony bit. The oatmeal doesn’t clump when you use your spoon/spurtle. Once the oatmeal starts to bubble turn the heat down a bit (not all the way down, I use 2 out of 10 on my stove) and add your salt, cinnamon, and cardamom.
- Keep stiring until it simmers down to the consistency you want (usually fifteen to twenty minutes)
- Once it is done, pour it into two bowls, add a spoonful honey and just a quick pour of milk (or as they say, a “moat” of milk, just enough to make a rim of milk around the edge of the porridge). add a handful of dried fruits (I like raisin, Cynthia like dried apricots and dates), and serve with a cup of fresh coffee or tea.