Lucy Madden’s Food Blog-February

These cold mornings should have us all reaching for the porridge oats.  It is said that a bowl of porridge will keep you going for half the day since the raw ingredient, oatmeal, is a whole grain complex carbohydrate that is low in fat, cholesterol free and rich in fibre. It’s also a good source of iron, calcium and vitamin B1.  As if this wasn’t enough, eating porridge, too, helps the brain produce serotonin, a substance that keeps spirits up and appetites down.  No more reaching for the biscuit tin mid-morning then.

Of course there is much more to oatmeal than porridge.  Whether you buy oats in the form of rolled oats, jumbo oats, pinhead oatmeal or finely ground oatmeal, you have an ingredient that can be used in many different ways in cakes, biscuits and puddings.  Oats are a staple ingredient of black and white puddings, are sometimes used as a crust for roasting meat, and are essential in flapjacks.  Try adding oats to a crumble mixture or mixing them with fresh fruit, cream and a little sugar to make an instant pudding.  Oats can be added to meatballs or make a good coating for oily fish such as mackerel and herrings fried and served with some crispy bacon and a wedge of lemon.  Or stir a few spoonfuls of oatflakes into some chopped onion softened with butter.  This dish, known as skirlie, sprinkled with a little chopped parsley, was traditionally served as an accompaniment to fried fish much as you might serve potatoes or rice.

Oatflakes have long been used as an ingredient in soda breads as in the recipes below.  The ingredients can be mixed in a matter of minutes and you have none of the proving times necessary when making bread with yeast.  It is difficult to be accurate with oven times, since ovens vary, so the recommended times are not rigid.  The way to test whether or not a loaf is cooked is to turn it out of the tin, or upside down, and tap the bottom with your fingers.  If it sounds hollow, your bread is ready.

OATMEAL BREAD

150g/ medium oatmeal

300 ml/1/2 pint water

150ml/5 fl oz natural yoghourt

350g/ 11oz plain flour

1 level tablespoon baking powder

1 level teaspoon salt

extra oatmeal for sprinkling

Put the oatmeal into a large mixing bowl.  Stir the yoghourt into the water and mix into the oatmeal.  Leave so that the oatmeal can soften for at least 1 hour.

Place a sieve over the mixing bowl and sift in the plain flour, baking powder and salt.  Using a knife, cut and stir the ingredients to make a soft dough.  Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead about 3 turns, just to remove any cracks.  Form the dough into a round disc, about 5 cm in depth and transfer this to a floured baking tray.  Using a floured knife cut a deep cross through the bread to allow it to cook evenly.  Bake at Gas Mark 6/400C/200F for 25-30 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack and leave to cool.

PINHEAD OATMEAL BREAD

450g/1 lb wholemeal flour

225g/8 oz pinhead oatmeal

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon bread soda

25g/1 oz soft margarine

500ml/18 fl oz buttermilk

 

Put the wholemeal flour and pinhead oatmeal into a large mixing bowl and sieve in the salt and bread soda.  Using your fingers, rub in the margarine and then pour in the buttermilk.  Stir until the mixture is smooth and then put into a greased bread tin and bake in a hot oven Gas Mark 7/425F/220C for 10 minutes then lower the heat to Gas Mark 5/375F/190C for about 25-30 minutes.

 

SPRING SODA BREAD

 

Even if there’s not much sign of it, we can pretend that spring is on the way.  If you don’t have tarragon, use another chopped spring onion.

 

225g/8 oz wholemeal flour

375g/13 oz plain flour

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon bread soda

25g/1 oz soft margarine

1 spring onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

50g/2 oz medium oatmeal

600 ml/1 pint buttermilk

 

Put the wholemeal flour into a mixing bowl and then sieve in the plain flour, salt and bread soda.  Rub in the margarine and then stir in the spring onion, parsley, tarragon and oatmeal.  Stir in the buttermilk and then knead lightly until smooth.  Shape into two rounds and place on a greased baking sheet.  Using a floured knife cut a cross on the top of each round and sprinkle with a little wholemeal flour.  Cook in a preheated oven Gas Mark 6/400C/200F for 25-30 minutes.  Eat while fresh.