A HINT of cool weather has me enjoying a bowl of porridge most mornings. Porridge may seem a time-consuming, everyday breakfast choice. But with a little preparation (and fermentation if you are game) a bowl of nutritious porridge can be made in minutes.
Choosing your oats can be confusing. There’s groats, steel cut, rolled, quick – and I hesitate to even mention them – quick sachets or instant. All these options start out as groats, the least-processed option.
Oat groats are whole-oat grains that have had their husk removed and are typically lightly steamed to increase shelf life. Steel-cut oats are made by cutting groats into pieces and rolled oats are made by rolling them flat. Rolled oats are also steamed, unless you roll your own. Quick oats are similar to rolled oats, but have been rolled thinly. Quick sachets or instant oats have been chopped fine, flattened, pre-cooked and dehydrated.
So which to choose? Stick to groats, steel-cut or rolled – and you’ll have yourself a hearty, satisfying and nutritious bowl of porridge.
There’s no need for the quick oats – as regular rolled oats cook just as quickly if you soak them overnight.
I save money by buying our oats in bulk. I buy Australian-grown organic groats and rolled oats in 5-kilogram bags. It sounds like a lot of oats – but they keep well in the pantry and it means I need to buy breakfast cereal only every few months. At about 45 grams of oats per serve, a bowl of organic oat porridge can cost as little as 20¢. Or even less if you buy through a bulk-buying co-op like Newcastle-based the Healthful Pantry.
Here are four steps to a perfect porridge
Step 1. Soak or ferment.
The night before, or a day or two before for a fully fermented porridge, measure out your oats and water. Combine in a thick-based saucepan if only soaking overnight or a glass bowl or jar if fermenting for longer.
For groats and steel-cut oats, add a ¼ cup of oats and 1 cup of water per person.
For rolled oats, add a ½ cup oats and 1 cup of water per person. The longer you soak or ferment, the quicker your oats will cook and the creamier and more nutritious your porridge will be. You can speed up fermentation by adding a dash of whey or a spoonful of sourdough. Cover loosely with a clean tea towel and leave at room temperature at least overnight and up to two days.
Step 2. Add spices, dried fruit, nuts or seeds.
My favourite mix is (per person) about a teaspoon each of ground cinnamon and ginger, one cardamom pod and a tablespoon each of sultanas and almonds. The options are almost unlimited. Add your favourite dried fruits (figs, dates, apricots or apple), nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts) and seeds (sunflower, pepitas).
Step 3. Cook.
Add more water if needed, and simmer on low heat, stirring regularly. Duration depends on the type of oats you are using and duration of soaking. Rolled oats will cook in a couple of minutes. Steel cut takes about 10 minutes, and groats take 20-30 minutes. Their chewy, wholesome texture is worth the wait.
Step 4. Add toppings.
I top my porridge with tahini, yoghurt and honey. Other healthy options include fresh or stewed fruit, butter, ghee, cream, dairy or nut milks, molasses, maple syrup, or coconut flakes. No two bowls of porridge ever need to be the same.
Tricia shares tips for living better with less at littleecofootprints.com and on Instagram (TriciaEco).