Steel cut oats have just entered my universe and they are fantastic. Luxurious and comforting, a bowl of warming oats never tasted so good. With winter just around the corner I’ve been on the lookout for an easy, portable breakfast solution to accommodate my daughter’s regular 5 am swim squad starts. Over the spring and summer a ready supply of overnight bircher muesli topped with an ever changing variety of fresh fruit filled the brief. Grab and go. Easy and delicious. Last winter rolled oats were the order of the day, but stored in a heated thermos over a couple of hours had a tendency to become a little grey and gluggy.
Enter gorgeously creamy steel cut oats, sometimes also known as Irish or pin head oats,. Like rolled oats they are milled from whole grain oats but processed very differently. Rolled oats, as their name suggests, are steamed, rolled, then steamed again before being toasted until they form thin flakes. Steel cut oats are made by cutting the kernels or ‘oat groats’ into neat little pieces with steel blades until they resemble small grains. Because of their small size and shape they take a little longer to cook than regular rolled oats.About half an hour. On the flip side, however, they retain a more robust texture and flavour when cooked, and easily withstand being prepared ahead and reheated in the early morning without disintegrating into an unpalatable gloop as they sit in a thermos, waiting for squad training to end. If anything they seem to become richer and creamier after a quick blast in the microwave and retain heat well.
So much so I’ve taken to making a big batch on Sunday evenings and storing a whole week’s supply in jars in the fridge. Toasting oats in a little butter before simmering in a mixture of salted water and milk gives the cooked oats a lovely nutty, roasted flavour. All that’s required on a weekday morning is a quick reheat with a little milk served with whatever topping takes our fancy. At its simplest perhaps a basic sprinkling of crunchy demerara sugar or drizzle of honey or syrup. At its most decadent a dazzling array of fruit compotes, nuts and sometimes even flakes of deep, dark chocolate. Today we settled on an apple compote made of new season granny smith apples, their natural tartness offset by sweet brown sugar coated walnuts. Perfect fuel for a swimmer post an early morning squad session. Breakfast to go never tasted so good.
Toasted Steel Cut Oats With Apple Compote and Brown Sugar Walnuts.
For The Oats
Makes 4-5 serves
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup steel-cut oats
3 cups freshly boiled water
generous pinch sea salt flakes
1 cup milk
MELT butter in a heavy based saucepan over medium heat. Add the oats and toast for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden.
ADD hot water and salt. Reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally.for 15-20 minutes. Oats should be tender but retain a little bite.
STIR in milk. Cover and cook for a further 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
REMOVE from heat. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before spooning into a clean, dry wide mouthed jar. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
TO SERVE, simply reheat a half to one cup portion of the oats. Spoon over apple compote and brown sugar walnuts, or the topping of your choice
For The Apple Compote
4 large granny smith apples, peeled, cored and quartered
2 tablespoons water
long strip of lemon rind
3 tablespoons sugar
juice of 1 lemon
SLICE the apples into even sized chunks and place in a heavy based saucepan with the long strip of lemon and water.
COVER the saucepan and cook the apples over over medium heat until the mixture is bubbling. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes until the apple slices are just beginning to dissolve and become fluffy.
STIR in sugar and lemon juice. Cover and simmer for a further 5 or so minutes until the apple breaks down but still has some texture. Taste the mixture, adding more sugar if required.
REMOVE from heat. Discard the strip of lemon rind, then leave to cool before spooning into a clean, dry jar. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
For The Brown Sugar Walnuts
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups walnuts
PREHEAT oven to 170 C. Line an oven tray with baking paper.
COMBINE sugar and vinegar in small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Add nuts; toss until well coated.
SPOON in an even layer over prepared oven tray.
BAKE until nuts are golden and crisp stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
REMOVE from oven. Cool completely on tray before breaking apart. Store in an airtight container.