Pantry Basics: Oats. Traditionally they were the feed of horses and cattle, but the canny Scots changed that and now the world reveres the common Oat as a mainstay of nutrition and sustenance. With more than 25 million tonnes produced worldwide every year, they are given credit as being the most nutritious of all the cereal grains, with the versatility of being included in savoury or sweet recipes alike.
How They Grow
The Avena Sativa plant thrives in temperate conditions, which are the cooler climes of northern Britain, Europe and Southern New Zealand. They grow where barley and wheat are not tolerated and can handle areas high in rainfall and cooler summer conditions.
Types Of Oats
Whole grain oats- These are the unbroken grains, where the germ is unseparated from the bran leaving all the goodness trapped. Very nutty in flavor, they take a bit of chewing to release the essential vitamins and oils. Sometimes these are referred to as Groats in old fashioned cookery books. They can be used for whole grain porridges and breakfast cereals. These ‘rough’ oats will take 30-40 minutes of rapid cooking to become tender enough to eat.
Steel cut oats- These can also be referred to as Groats or grits. The large whole grains are simply cut into smaller pieces with steel blades, leaving the pieces un steamed, un-rolled and nutritionally in tact. They have a chewy texture, but as smaller pieces, don’t need as much mastication to release the goodness. They are used in Irish cooking a lot as well as stuffings, congee or the very Scottish Atholl Brose. The smaller size reduces the cooking time to about 20 minutes.
Rolled jumbo oats- These are created by steaming the whole oats, and then rolled through various presses to flatten the oat. Although they have the advantage of being quicker to cook, 12-15 minutes, they have the disadvantage of having lost nutrition through the steaming process.
Instant rolled Oats- Another step on from jumbo oats, these have been steamed, and rolled and rolled again, almost crushed and split apart. Sometimes called quick oats, pinhead or Quaker oats, they are very quick to cook, 1-5 minutes, and produce a creamy result. They can be used in baking, bread making and of course quick cook porridge. The downside is they have lost a lot of their nutritional goodness with the extensive steaming, and are often fortified with extra vitamins and minerals to give back a nutritional kick.
Oat Flour- The whole grain oats are ground and then sieved to create a fine textured flour. With little gluten content this flour often is combined with wheat flours to help bind in baking recipes and breads.
Oat Bran- The bran and the germ are separated through another steaming process, and it is the bran only that becomes oat bran. Has a rich nutty flavor, which is used to flavor foods like muffins, and cakes, breads or even haggis. It has no gluten content at all.
Oatmeal- The wholegrain is ground to make a rough flour. Has a thicker texture than rolled oats. Used in stuffings, or mixed into breads as roughage.
Did You Know
The term “young people sow their wild oats” comes from the way that the original wild version of the oats plant would drop their seeds prematurely, before the seed had actually developed well enough, giving a metaphor for the similar practices of youth. Oats are the most nutritious of all the cereal plants. They contain more protein than wheat, and more fat than any other cereal. They are also full of indigestible beta D-glucans, which absorb water and are often credited as lowering bad blood cholesterol as they absorb the bad fats out of the bloodstream.
Oats also contain phenolic compounds which are most prized as anitoxidants in the human blood stream. Oat porridge is considered one of the cheapest, yet most nutritious meals you can have. In fact, some say the continued success of Scottish people through history, is all down to the porridge they eat for breakfast. The same water absorbing carbohydrate molecule – beta D glucans that absorb water is what also gives porridge its thick and creamy consistency.
– Well stored oats can last for more than 2 years. Seal in a plastic bag or airtight container, to reduce air and the chance of weevils getting to them. Keep in dark place or even better in the fridge to reduce the chance of the fats turning rancid.
– Salt is key to flavouring oats. When cooking porridge adding salt to early can toughen the oats. Leave the salt to the last minute or two of the cooking process. If iodised salt is not your thing, mix it up with kelp salt, to give the oats flavor and a
3 Ways With Oats
Preheat oven to 180°C and line two baking sheets. Mix together 225g oatmeal or rolled oats, 1 tablespoon plain white flour, ¼ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda. Stir in 1 tablespoon melted butter and enough warm water to make a moderately stiff dough. Knead this a little to bind together. Sprinkle board with a little flour and roll dough out as
thinly as possible. Cut into small circles or triangles, reforming the extra bits of dough to use all up. Bake trays in oven for about 10-15 minutes, until they are crisp. Cool and store in airtight containers.
Preheat the oven to 140°C. Grease a 22cm square baking tin. Melt together 120g treacle with 80g golden syrup, and 170g butter in a medium saucepan. Do not let it boil. When melted allow to cool slightly. Combine 200g wholemeal flour, 200g oatmeal or quick rolled oats, 3 teaspoons ground ginger, ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg, 175g soft brown sugar, ¼
teaspoon fine salt and 1 ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda in a large mixing bowl. Pour in treacle and butter mix, stirring to combine. Beat together 1 egg with 45ml of warm milk, then add this to the mix and stir until well mixed. Pour into tin and bake for 1 hour until firm in the centre and skewer comes out clean. Leave to ret in tin for at least 30 minutes before
turning out to slice. Lasts for more than three weeks.
By soaking oats overnight, the essential oils and nutrients can be softened and released to make it easier for the human gut to absorb. Whey or the watery acid produced from splitting dairy protein is the best at breaking down the protein, or use apple cider vinegar as a easier to find substitute. Use 1 cup organic oats, to 1 cup filtered water and 2 tablespoons
acid whey or cider vinegar. Soak for at least 7 hours or up to 24 hours. To cook add ½ teaspoon fine salt and cook for about 5-7 minutes until tender. Serve with yogurt, fruit and nuts for a nutritional start to every day.
Try some of our favourite oat recipes: