I spent a delicious week in Ireland earlier this year, and as well as picking up some fabulous honey (coming soon) I picked up a new respect for oats and some recipes for what to do with them.
I never knew there were such subtle distinctions in different types of oats. In any British supermarket you will find ‘rolled oats’. Want more variety? You might be treated to some breakfast cereal sachets (‘Oat so simple’) with added soya lecithin (which apparently stops porridge boiling over). Want more? Too bad – this is really just a simple grain and all we can think of is 1) rolling it out, or 2) rolling it out and then chopping it up a bit and packaging it with a pun. As Dr Johnson’s dictionary puts it, this is ‘a grain, which in England is generally given to horses’ (he adds bitchily that ‘in Scotland [it] supports the people’).
Well, in Ireland it seems to support an entire industry. You can get ‘steel cut oats’ and ‘pinhead oats’ along with ‘flake oatmeal’, ‘oatlets’, oat bran and endless varieties of rolled oats. I tried the pinhead oats and loved the creamy porridge it made, though only on holiday do you have NINETY MINUTES to wait for it to cook…
I ate this porridge, as I always do, with its perfect sweetening partner, honey. Knowing how good honey porridge tastes, you can understand why you’d want to try an ‘oaten honeycomb’ pudding. I got this recipe from Theodora Fitgibbon’s Taste of Ireland book, left in the kitchen of the cottage we stayed in. I’ve adapted it here in the light of my experience making it:
2 cups milk
2 cups oats
2 tbps liquid honey
3 tbsp melted butter
3 eggs, separated
0.5 cup ground almonds
3 heaped tbsp sugar
2 heaped tbsp raisins
Bring milk to the boil and stir in the oats until they have absorbed all the liquid. Leave to cool, then mix in one at a time the honey, butter, beaten egg yolks, almonds, sugar, cinnamon and raisins followed by the stiffly beaten egg whites. Put into a buttered bowl, cover and steam over hot water for 1.5 hours. Turn out and serve hot with warm melted honey or cream.
There are more honey adventures in my book, Travels in Blood and Honey; becoming a beekeeper in Kosovo, published with Signal Books.