We didn’t eat oatmeal when I was a kid, we ate Cream of Wheat (farina) prepared with whole milk, topped with a pat of butter and generously sprinkled with white sugar. The sugar would partially melt and each spoonful was a little sweet, a little crunchy. After eating the surface of the cereal, the sugar would be gone and an additional sprinkling would be required. Cream of Wheat was usually reserved for sick days (served with a slice of toast – darkly browned white bread, also buttered) but on some deeply cold winter mornings while we were all still young, mom would serve it before sending us out for the day.
Maybe my siblings ate oatmeal, I don’t know. I can recall that at some point packets of instant rolled oats that featured artificial maple flavor showed up in the cupboard. I never ate it. I was what my family labeled a picky eater. It’s strange to discover remnants of that old thinking still remain. It was only recently that I ate steel cut oatmeal for the first time in my memory. I had never challenged my own long-held belief that I didn’t like the texture. When our friend Paul made a big pot, he was surprised that I was hesitant, saying definitively that I was an oatmeal person.
And he’s right. It could call up a Proustian memory had I ever eaten oatmeal before. (Unless I have a yet unrecovered memory from being a toddler, under the care of my grandmother.) Still, the embrace was immediate. It’s comfort food, warm, mushy, earthy, sweet. I eat steel cut oats most days for breakfast, swirled with homemade jam or sprinkled with currents or raisins, and a splash of milk, or my favorite presentation, a drizzle of real maple syrup and a handful of crushed, toasted pecans – just writing the words elicits hunger pangs.
Irish or Scottish oats are uncomplicated to cook. One of the easiest ways to prepare them is to first soak the oats overnight. Be sure to make plenty to enjoy on subsequent mornings. Sometimes I like to add a portion of quinoa to pleasingly complicate the nutty, toothsome texture.
4 years later, January 11, 2015: Having stopped using dairy products, I’ve been enjoying steel cut oats cooked in water. Simple and filling. Last week I tried the oatmeal at the Prospect/Lefferts restaurant, Starliner Cafe (http://www.starlinermarket.com/about-the-cafe/), which inspired me to try unsweetened almond milk (or coconut milk), adding 1/4c dried fine unsweetened coconut flakes. Amazing. And just sweet enough to satisfy without added sugar. There’s no going back.
Both McCann’s and Bob’s Red Mill are non GMO products. McCann’s in a tin is the more expensive brand, Bob’s is sold in a cello bag (which I store in my recycled McCann’s tin.)
1 cup of oats makes 4 servings. Can be doubled.
Store refrigerated for up to five days. Can be frozen.
Fast and easy Irish oatmeal
1 c steel cut oats
¼ c white or red quinoa (optional)
4 cups cold water
¼ t salt
Your choice of toppings.
Before going to bed, bring four cups of water to a boil in a pot, add a pinch of salt and one cup of oatmeal and the optional 1/4 c of quinoa. Bring back to a boil and simmer 1 minute. Careful not to let the pot boil over. Turn off and cover pot. Sleep well.
The next morning remove the lid, stir well, then cook the oatmeal on low for 5-10 minutes; stir occasionally. Why the time range? I never watch the pot, instead I get the coffee going, set out my favorite toppings, warm the bowl and serve.
Remember to warm the maple syrup!
To reheat: Use a microwave or a small sauce pan. Add 2T water or milk and a serving portion of oatmeal, stir until creamy and heated through, about 2 minutes on the stove.
From the Maple Groves Farm website: [Pure] Maple Syrup is an all natural product with no preservatives. Unopened containers of maple syrup may be left in a cool, dark place for about one year without refrigeration. After opening, the syrup should be refrigerated. Freezing keeps open or unopened containers indefinitely, and the liquid will not solidify. Any harmless mold that forms on the surface of opened syrup may be skimmed off, and the product may be used after reheating on the stove or in the microwave. Place reheated syrup in a fresh, clean container and refrigerate. Glass is recommended as it preserves the color and flavor longer than other containers.