The quest for the perfect porridge continues.
I have bought a very smart little grain roller inspired by Joost Bakker. I first heard about him when I saw his incredible house in Vogue Living a while back and how ever many years on I still adore the light fitting he made using a huge role of ring lock wire. But in a more recent article in The Weekend Australian he caught my attention speaking about a German dentist called Schnitzer who in the 1950s became puzzled by the rise of tooth decay in the region where he practised, except for one town with a bakery still grinding wheat.
"Grain contains Omega 3 and oils that are good for us but when they introduced steel mills the heat burnt off the oils," Bakker told the newspaper. "This meant the flour did not become rancid and could be produced in mass quantities, but in the process we lost the good enzymes and oils."
Basically, he said if everyone owned a roller to roll their oats every morning, all sorts of health problems ranging from allergies to bad teeth to depression, could be reduced.
So with the concurrent hopes of eating tasty porridge, reducing my therapy bill and improving the quality of life of a man regularly stricken by hay fever I have mounted a hand roller to our kitchen table. My neighbour Sandra said she had a huge bag of oats in her shed. As soon as the roller arrived in the mail, I was there.
As the oats tumbled into my bucket, we noticed a big red tablet thing which turned out to be hardcore rat bait. Something you may not have picked up by looking at the grains encased in white linen above. Sandra also mentioned, several times, that the oats were pretty old. But I had the perfect porridge to make so took the stuff home anyway.
Thankfully I could not get over the next hurdle. The grains still had their husks on and although the roller did turn the grains into little rolled oats (CUTE! said in the narrator voice from Meg Mason's Say it Again), it did not sort the oats from the husks. There was way more husk than oat, and it was dry, fibrous and quite unappetising. I became very tired thinking about picking all the little bits out. Google, when asked how one would separate the oats from the husks without going crazy, started using words like winnowing and threshing and that's when I thought I better call it quits and find a health food shop.
So while my groats (not a typo - they are what you call oats after they have been de-husked but before they have been rolled) are on backorder I am experimenting with the perfect porridge using non home-rolled oats and offer three very good recipes below, although I'll reserve my final judgement until after my groats arrive.
BAKED APPLE AND QUINCE PORRIDGE
This is from the excellent blog Local is Lovely and like all of Sophie's recipes is very tasty. I added pecans to the crumble mix instead of walnuts but next time I would hold off adding the nuts until after it comes out of the oven as they do tend to burn easily (perhaps this is just my oven that is frustratingly of the top-and-bottom searing grill variety. Ed are you still reading.) and burnt nuts are deflating to say the least.
Sophie suggests you put this together the night before and leave in the fridge until needed or just throw together 40 minutes before breakfast. Serves 4.
3 crisp apples, peeled and thinly sliced
3 cups poached quinces
1 1/2 cups porridge oats (not instant)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
3 tbsp brown sugar
1/3 cup toasted walnuts or pecans
4 cups whole milk
1 tsp vanilla paste
Natural yogurt and honey, to serve
Lightly grease a large four-cup capacity baking dish and preheat the oven to 180C. Combine the apples and quinces on the base of the dish then combine the oats with the cinnamon, baking powder, salt and sugar and cover the fruit with this mixture. Whisk the egg, milk and vanilla paste together and pour over the oats.
Bake in a moderate oven, 180°C, for 40 minutes (you want the porridge to still be slightly wobbly to touch in the middle) then serve hot with natural yogurt, tasted nuts and a drizzle of honey.
PEARL BARLEY AND OAT PORRIDGE WITH CINNAMON, NUTMEG AND BAKED PEARS AND APPLES
This experiment worked out very well. I was desperate to roll something myself and saw I had pearly barley grains, with no husks, in the pantry. I rolled a few but then decided I preferred the texture of the barley as it was. So, with or without a roller, this is very achievable and very delicious.
nob of butter
two tablespoons raw sugar
1 1/2 cups pearl barley
1 1/2 cups of rolled oats
cinnamon and nutmeg to taste
pinch of salt
another two tablespoons of raw or brown sugar
about three cups of milk, maybe more
a handful of toasted pecans and natural yoghurt to serve
The night before soak the pearl barley in a big bowl of water. Also bake the fruit by cutting the apples and pears in quarters and taking out the seeds and core parts (I don't bother peeling them) toss in sugar and tumble into a buttered baking dish, along with the nob of butter and put in a 180C oven until soft and caramelised.
Then the morning make the porridge as common sense would dictate. Start with the drained pearl barley, heat with about half of the milk and add the spices, salt and sugar. Stir occasionally and add more milk when the mix is looking dry. After about 15 mins add the oats and the rest of the milk and stir until cooked. Of course add more milk if you need it.
Serve with yoghurt, toasted pecans and the baked apples and pears.
NATASHA'S SPECIAL PORRIDGE
This is a godsend when you have done no prep the day before but want something good in the next ten minutes. I mentioned it in my last post but wanted to make it (slightly) more formal here.
I am not going to write the ingredients out because it is porridge with rolled oats, cooked on the stove as you normally would. Natasha makes it special by adding grated apples, cream (the cream is very good), honey and cinnamon. Sometimes she adds vanilla essence, sometimes coconut milk. If she is feeling healthy she adds sunflower seeds or linseeds and she never measures the liquid but just cooks it until it is creamy. Amen.