Staple Corner: Oat Porridge for Two

Oat Porridge for Two

By now everyone is familiar with the advice to eat whole grains as part of their daily diet, but many people still don't know how to go about getting them properly. Whole grains are widely marketed these days in all kinds of breads, granolas, cereals and snacks, but unless you're familiar with the actual process used in their productions, you're better off without them. Most commercial whole grain products are baked at too high temperatures — it's quick and efficient for the producers, but these temperatures destroy most of the nutritional content of the foods. Another common problem in modern production processes is the use of rancid grains — the outer layer of the whole grains are especially susceptible to becoming rancid quickly without freezing.

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Most importantly, however, the grains used in most commercial processes have not been soaked before being cooked. All grains contain phytic acid in their outer layer, or bran, that when left untreated combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption. Soaking grains in warm water overnight allows enzymes and lactobacilli to break down the phytic acid so that the benefits of grains are realized. Soaking and fermenting also helps break down the complex proteins in grains, especially gluten, into simpler components that are much more easily digested by the body.

It's ridiculously easy to prepare whole grains for yourself, and one of the best times to get them is in the morning with your breakfast. Grain porridges have been a staple of cultures around the world for as long as anyone knows, and they're almost as quick as pouring a bowl of corn flakes. Oat porridges are fondly remembered by older generations of Canadians as a staple breakfast food, and they're also one of my favorite quick morning pick-me-uppers. Rolled or steel-cut oats are almost as good as using the whole oat groats, because they've only been lightly processed with light steaming and rolling or cutting.
Oat Porridge for Two

Add 1 cup of rolled or steel-cut oat flakes to 1 cup of warm water, yogurt, or any mixture of the two, and add a small stick of cinnamon. Let the oats and liquid soak together for at least seven hours and as much as twenty-four hours.

Bring 1 cup of water to a boil with a pinch of sea salt if desired. Toss in some finely diced apple pieces, and add the soaked oats. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for a few minutes until thick. Just before taking the oats off the stove, add fresh or frozen berries or raisins and stir in for thirty seconds.

Take the oats off the stove and let cool for just a few minutes before serving.

Whole grains should always be eaten with good fatty dairy products to provide the catalyst for mineral absorption. The easiest way to do this is to add some whole cream, yogurt, buttermilk, or a pat of butter to the porridge. A few freshly ground flax seeds to give you a good dose of omega-3 fatty acids are always a good addition to the porridge after it's cooked. If you like a little extra sweetness, swirl in a bit of maple syrup or raw honey.
Although oat flakes are what I usually use in porridge, other grains can be substituted as well, although some grains like rye or teff may require soaking for longer than seven hours. Two popular alternatives in my house are spelt, an ancient member of the wheat family with a gluten that breaks down more easily during soaking and is often more digestible for people with digestion problems, and kamut, another ancient grain with a mild nutty taste. Give them a try, they're all good, and good for you.


Fergy said...

Hey Lisa how long for the spelt and the Kamut? Great post as always. I read them all but can't always comment everyday. Thanks

Lisa said...

The spelt and the kamut might take a little while longer, but basically you just cook the grains until the water is evaporated and it looks like porridge.

kathryn said...

Lovely recipe, and such a good way of getting into the habit of having wholegrains. I often soak them overnight in water and milk and then cook up the next day with a pinch of mixed spice. I then usually have them with yoghurt and fruit, but I've never added yoghurt or cinnamon to the soaking mix.

You've also inspired me to go out and get a few more grains - I've been getting a bit lazy recently and just sticking with oats. However eating a variety of grains is always much better nutritionally. Thanks for this.