In the days when food really was food, perhaps 3,000 or 4,000 years ago, some bright spark of a neolithic cavewoman (I like to think woman over man in this respect as, gender never having been equal, man would likely have been off adventuring or hunting down whatever kind of fresh meat he could contribute towards dinner) was a wee bit fed up of the taste and texture of the wild wheat she, having learnt from her grandmother, routinely gathered in.
Desperately looking for a change, by pure chance, she spotted a different type of what looked like an edible cereal grain, dancing in the gentle breeze drifting through the secluded upland valley she was gathering in that day.
It was, although she was completely unaware of this, a momentous day in history: a day which many races, all around the modern world, have reason to be thankful for. The day on which porridge was born.
Down the centuries since that fateful day, oats have been domesticated, cultivated, pounded, milled and flaked until we have the extremely versatile oatmeal and porridge oats in global use today.
Discover the versatility of the humble oat, a power-packed cereal grain that can be used to whip up many delicious and healthy treats
Nutritious and healthy, the far from humble oat is literally bursting with vitamins and minerals, has been medically proven to help lower high cholesterol, reduce blood sugar, promote a healthy heart and digestive system and, if eaten as part of breakfast, power you up to keep you on the move throughout the day.
Used in savoury and sweet dishes, in beverages such as the increasingly fashionable coffee substitutes and milk replacement drinks, this relatively cheap and cheerful cereal grain can be made into almost anything you wish it to be.
Toasted, roasted, boiled, baked, blended or fried, oats are, along with porridge of course, an integral ingredient of foods as diverse as oatcakes, muesli, cookies, cakes and some breads, through to being used in some seafood dishes, meat stews, and in both meat and vegetarian stews.
Oats, unbelievably, are also an ingredient of some ice creams, plus, are widely used in skin and hair treatments too. Here are a couple of examples of how to make the best out of oats.
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup wholewheat flour
1 cup plain white flour
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon cooking oil
2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried yeast
300 ml warm milk
A few drops of cooking oil
Place the oatmeal, wholewheat flour, plain flour and salt in a large baking bowl and mix well. Warm the milk, to no more than blood heat, in a pan, stir in the sugar until it dissolves, add the dried yeast and leave to stand for about 10-15 minutes until the mixture is frothy.
Make a well in the centre of the flours, pour the milk/yeast mixture into this and add the cooking oil. Mix well, adding more warm milk if necessary, until a smooth dough is formed. Turn the dough out on to a floured surface and knead the dough for about 10 minutes, trapping as much air as possible into it in the process. Sprinkle lightly with oats, place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and stand in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size. This will take 30-45 minutes.
Turn the dough back out on to a floured board and knead a second time, for about 10 minutes. Shape the dough to fit a medium-sized loaf tin. Lightly oil the loaf tin and the dough. Place the dough in the loaf tin, cover and leave to stand in a warm place for another 30 minutes.
Bake on the centre shelf of a hot oven for about 30 minutes or until the loaf is nicely browned and the base of the loaf (handle with care please) resonates like a hollow drum when tapped.
Equally delicious hot or cold, with savoury dishes, soups or lavishly plastered with jam/marmalade.
1 cup porridge oats
1 cup plain white flour
Half cup butter
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 tablespoons sugar
Wash, clean and slice the strawberries. Lay them, evenly, in the bottom of a medium-sized casserole dish. Sprinkle with half of the sugar. Place the oats, flour, baking powder and the rest of the sugar in a baking bowl and mix them together. Add the butter and rub it in, using your fingers, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sesame seeds. Spread the mixture on top of the strawberries.
Bake in the centre of the oven on a medium heat for about 20-25 minutes or until the mixture has risen and the top is nicely browned.
Serve hot or cold with custard, cream, ice cream or with a dollop of plain yogurt.
Originally published in Dawn, EOS, May 8th, 2022