Join us in the 'celebration' of Scotland’s traditional national dish! Today on the 10th October it is the World Porridge Day! We spoke to Ross in the kitchen about his relationship to the simple and nutritious cereal and the will look at the use of oats in the Scottish diet!
The History of Porridge Oats
The humble oat has been a staple of the Scottish diet since medieval times. It is used to make porridge, of course, as well as such other traditional favourites as oatcakes, bannocks, skirlie, haggis, mealy pudding and for frying fish. Every croft once had its own girnel, an oatmeal barrel, as well as a porridge drawer.
A batch of porridge would be made at the beginning of the week and kept cold in the drawer so that members of the family could slice off chunks as they were needed, perhaps for a snack while working out on the fields.
Oats were always popular in Scotland as they are a hardy cereal, able to grow in harsh climates and poor soil. Scotch oats, also referred to as 'pinhead', are chopped rather than rolled into smaller pieces and therefore tend to be chewier and take longer to cook. The finer the oatmeal, the quicker it takes to prepare and the smoother the consistency.
In its simplest form, oats were eaten as brose with hot water, but porridge is more popular, though how it is made differs from household to household. The traditional Scots way is to soak the oats overnight, then boil them in the morning, stirring the mixture as it thickens with a wooden spirtle to avoid lumps!
Porridge purists may reject adding any modern-day luxuries such as 'heaven forbid, sugar, milk, syrup or cream ' instead sticking to the time-honoured tradition of oats, water and salt (which was also Ross' first introduction to the cereal - see below). Yet if you don't have the time or patience to stand lovingly over the hot stove while the porridge comes to the boil, then making it in the microwave offers an easier and much quicker alternative today. You simply just have to find your favourite amongst the many ways of cooking and types of combinations, whether they are sweet or savoury! Even just as a cereal added to your yoghurt or smoothie makes your meal all that much more filling!
A bowl of hot porridge served on frosty mornings with a little milk is by all accounts extremely good for you. Oats contain more fibre than many other cereal grains and they are a good source of essential fatty acids and vitamins. Furthermore, it staves off hunger for longer as the carbohydrates in oats are absorbed by the body slowly. According to the NHS, findings support existing evidence that whole grains in the diet are important for cardiovascular health. They are recommended as part of a healthy, balanced diet and, along with recommended levels of physical activity, may help to prevent cardiovascular disease.
Ross' first introduction to porridge & his use of the hardy cereal
"My earliest memory of porridge is of my granddads serving us it cooked in water with a healthy pinch of salt! It wasn't pleasant, but the trick was to eat it as quickly as possible to avoid it setting in the bowl, which made it very child unfriendly!
I have grown to really appreciate oats and their many uses, my preferred method for porridge is to soak the oats in milk overnight (about 3 x milk to oats), then cook the porridge with this milk in the morning. Cook it slowly over low heat, stirring occasionally - this will yield a creamy finish to your breakfast.
It lends itself to savoury dishes as well! Try braising some oxtail and adding some of the stock after the meats cooked to some toasted oats - you won't need much stock. Stir in some diced butter from the fridge, some chopped chives and cooked chopped smoked bacon. Serve it underneath the oxtail for a change to mashed potato. You'll be surprised how good it is!"
Do you have any recipes for porridge you want to share? Why not put your favourite combination in a comment below? Or even better, if you are coming to stay with us in November, try out our own Eriska porridge! There is definitely something about spending a cold autumn morning in the luxurious country house style hotel with a bowl of porridge surrounded by the crisp colourful autumn forest, relaxing views over the gardens or by the roaring log fire...