Oats have been used as feed for horses and cattle since the early Bronze Age, and the crusaders appreciated them as human food, easy to carry in a saddlebag, easy to cook over an open fire and nutritious enough for a soldier going into for battle.
We still value the good taste, nutrition and easy preparation of oats.
Oats come in several forms, depending on how the kernel is. All forms start with oat groats, the whole oat kernel, minus the husk. Steel-cut oats, also called Irish or pinhead oats, are made by cutting oat groats into two or three pieces and making a coarse-textured cooked cereal. Scotch or stone-ground oats are made by grinding, not cutting, the groats to make a product that cooks quickly into what purists call true oatmeal porridge.
What most of us call oatmeal porridge is made with rolled oats, groats made pliable by steaming, and then flattened by passing through roller mills. Old-fashioned or large flake oats are thickest, followed by quick-cooking oats, which are rolled thinner and cook more quickly. Instant oats, which are pre-cooked and rolled thin, cook instantly with the addition of boiling water, producing porridge with a smoother texture than old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats.
We generally don’t see oat groats being sold, but New Brunswick’s Speerville Mills sells them and provides this recipe for oat groat salad.
Cavena Mediterranean Salad
Adapted from recipe by Speerville Mills
500 mL (2 cups) oat groats
2 mL (½ tsp) salt
½ red pepper, small dice
½ cucumber, small dice
1 tomato, small dice
¼ red onion, small dice
125 mL (½ cup) feta, crumbled
50 mL (¼ cup) black olives, pitted and diced
125 mL (½ cup) olive oil
50 mL (¼ cup) balsamic vinegar
15 mL (1 tbsp) liquid honey
5 mL (1 tsp) minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Place oat groats in a medium saucepan. Cover with cold water about 5 cm (2 inches) above oats. Add salt. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce heat to medium. Cook until just tender, with a slight bite, about 45 minutes, and cool under cold running water.
Once chilled, place in a medium bowl. Add other ingredients and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. The salad tastes best after sitting overnight.
Makes 750 mL (3 cups)
Estelle Reddin, who taught in the home economics department at UPEI, shared this recipe decades ago at a presentation about traditional or historical foods of P.E.I. It was one of the ways that earlier generations of Islanders of Scottish extraction used rolled oats.
Adapted from a presentation by Estelle Reddin
375 mL (1½ cups) lard
250 mL (1 cup) granulated sugar
750 mL (3 cups) large flake rolled oats + extra for rolling
750 mL (3 cups) all purpose flour
5 mL (1 tsp) salt
2 mL (½ tsp) baking soda
250 mL (1 cup) cold water
Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F).
Blend first 6 ingredients together thoroughly, and then moisten mixture by stirring in 250 mL (1 cup) of cold water.
Roll thin, using rolled oats to prevent sticking. Use a sharp knife to cut into rectangles.
Bake in preheated oven until lightly browned.
Variations of Overnight Oats (inspired by Bircher Muesli which debuted in the latter part of the 19th century) made with uncooked rolled oats, softened overnight in liquid and enriched with other ingredients to vary the flavour and texture, are popular today. Here’s a basic recipe.
Adapted from Epicurious.com
125 mL (½ cup) rolled oats (not instant)
25 mL (2 tbsp) chia seeds
250 mL (1 cup) milk or fortified soya milk or fortified almond milk or half
yogurt and half milk
Pinch cinnamon or cardamom
1 mL (¼ tsp) vanilla extract
Sprinkle cocoa powder
5 mL (1 tsp) maple syrup, honey, or white or brown sugar
Combine basic ingredients and any optional additions selected in a jar with a tight fitting lid, such as a 250 mL (half pint) mason jar. Taste, adjust flavourings, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning, give it a stir, and add toppings if desired. Suggested toppings: fresh fruit, chopped nuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, dried fruit.
Makes 1 generous serving.
Margaret Prouse, a home economist, can be reached by writing her at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.