"Almost Instant" Oat Porridge

Almost Instant Oat Porridge

After an evening meal of rich and greasy foods like the fried Indian pastries I had for takeouts the other night, a wholesome homemade oat porridge with fruit for breakfast feels cleansing and invigorating to the body the next day. If you're still groggy from all the oils and carbohydrates, there's nothing faster or simpler. And with a basket on hand of the plumpest, juiciest apricots I've seen for almost a year, an oat porridge cooked in apple-cranberry juice with diced fresh apricots became irresistible.

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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.

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 or yogurt overnight allows enzymes and lactobacilli to break down the phytic acid so that the mineral benefits of grains are realized. Soaking and fermenting is also crucial for breaking down complex proteins like the gluten found in oats into simpler components that are much more easily digested by the body.

And oats are just about the perfect grain for starting the day with energy, naturally sweet and soothing, and a terrific source of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, fiber and B vitamins. Samuel Johnson once noted that oats are "a grain used in England to feed horses and in Scotland to feed the populace," which might be why there were so many splendid specimens of English horses and Scots. Oatmeal porridge was a staple breakfast food of older Canadians, and it's so quick and easy to make there's no reason why it shouldn't become a staple for a new generation as well.

On the subject of processed foods, I've never understood the need for "quick" or "instant" oats when ordinary rolled or steel-cut oat flakes cook about as fast as it takes to pour a bowl of corn flakes when the oats have been soaked the night before. Like other marketed whole grain products, instant oats are pre-cooked at nutrient-destroying temperatures before they even get to your cupboard, and contain unnecessary preservatives and artificial sweeteners besides. On the other hand, old-fashioned 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.

Almost Instant Oat Porridge

For my porridges I employ a variation of the old muesli technique in which I soak the oats in an equal amount of plain whole-fat yogurt and whey overnight at room temperature, and sometimes with a small piece of cinnamon stick tossed in for flavor. One-third cup of dried oats usually makes a good-sized serving for most people. If you find the idea of leaving yogurt overnight at room temperature unappealing, don't worry — it is perfectly safe since the broken-down lactic acid in yogurt prevents harmful bacterial culturation, and brings out the natural tangy flavor of yogurt as an added bonus. Whole grains should always be eaten with good fatty dairy products to provide the catalyst for mineral absorption in any case, and soaking the oats in yogurt is the easiest way to do this.

The next morning, bring an amount of water and/or fruit juice equal to the amount of oats to a light boil. Stir in the soaked oats, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for just a few minutes until thick, stirring constantly to avoid sticking. Just before taking the oats off the stove, add fresh or frozen berries, fruit or raisins, seeds or nuts, and stir in for thirty seconds. Swirl in a bit of maple syrup, raw honey or molasses if you crave a little extra sweetness.

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


Jacqueline Meldrum said...

This sounds good Lisa. You mentioned you used whey. Do you curdle and strain milk to obtain whey or do you have another source? Is there anythink you could substitute? I usually just have my porridge made with milk, drizzle a little honey and maybe some raisins, I have never heard of this method before. My dad likes his porridge the traditional way with a little salt.

Priya Suresh said...

Yummy porridge..healthy too..

Lisa Turner said...

Holler, I use the whey from yogurt.

anudivya said...

That might be the best pic of oats I might have ever seen... I am not that big a fan of gooey oats in the moring, but this just might make me change my mind.

Ivy said...

Very useful information Lisa. I bought a package of oats to make some cookies and when I was sick I felt like making pudding to eat something light. However there were no instructions on the package and I google searched and could not find any instructions at all how to make porridge. Even on the website of Quaker Oats I could not find instructions. Maybe it's that easy to make that nobody thinks it's important to write about it but I had no idea where to start from and it came out quite soupy whereas the one in your picture looks very creamy. Have you posted this recipe?

Lisa Turner said...

Ivy, the recipe is essentially the last few paragraphs of the post. The basic way to make porridge is to soak one part oats in two parts water overnight. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is absorbed - about 15 minutes.

Ivy said...

Thanks Lisa. However, I am still a bit confused. I am not sure if this has to be done with instant oats as well.

Lisa Turner said...

I never use instant oats, as regular ones really take very little time to cook and they are much better for you too.

Spice Rack said...

The picture is great and oat porridge makes me think of the goldilocks and the 3 bears.