Oatmeal, porridge, whatever you wanna call it. One thing: treat it like risotto.
Oats are like the perfect middle-ground between incredibly indulgent and incredibly nutritious.
I was probably born with a spoonful of oats in my mouth. Wherever I was, at home, at school, on holidays, oats always made an appearance. Except my oat consumption has changed drastically since those dairy and microwave days. I actually used to pour cornflakes on top of my porridge. That crunch was everything. Now it just comes in a different shape (i.e. spoonfuls of PB)!
Risotto, on the other hand, is the ultimate indulgence. It takes forever to cook, it’s not the simplest to execute, it requires so much of your attention, and the flavours are so important, unless you want a plate of gloopy rice. Oats are the same unless you want a bowl of mashed up cardboard. Oatmeal is the real deal in the health world (high in fibre and slow-releasing energy, vegan, cheap, filling, versatile), but to the outsider, it’s often still seen as really boring. Is risotto boring? No, because it’s always different and so complex in flavour. Oatmeal can be risotto. I believe in you.
In addition to this, a lot of us are suffering from periodical or never-ending gut issues. So. Let’s take about how your oatmeal can help heal your gut rather than wreck it, as well as having a blissful and decadent experience.
all the oatibilities
So oats can be a little confusing. Steel cut? Rolled? Instant? Flavoured? Let’s keep it simple. The less processed the oat, the better. You can recreate those brown sugar packet-varieties far better at home, on the stove. From a textural point of view, steel cut oats are more like rice, and hence like risotto, than instant rolled oats, which can turn to mush very quickly.
Steel cut oats are completely (or near-completely) unprocessed. Not rolled or bleached or denatured by steaming and dehydration. More natural is always best, especially when you are trying to avoid gluten, dairy or nuts, which is especially important when healing your gut. So go for steel-cut oats when time allows it, and stick to organic gluten-free rolled oats when short on time. Having said that, all types are sugar-level balancing (if they’re natural, not flavoured), support heart health and high in soluble fibre, which is great for colon health.
Feel free to add some unusual gluten-free grains and seeds to your porridge, too; amaranth, brown rice, quinoa and buckwheat are all popular choices!
cut the dairy
I said it, alright. I don’t believe dairy to be the best oat thickener out there. Oat milk works a treat; and it makes a hell of a lot more sense! Oats + oats = extreme delicious oatiness. I use Oatly organic oat milk, just be sure to shake the bottle before pouring. It has a really neutral and balancing effect against the flakes, as well as a dreamy creamy consistency because oats are high in starch, and so is oat milk. Coconut milk is another superhero milk; its anti fungal properties are often praised and are a great addition if you have a sensitive gut. If you’re looking for exra richness, you could always opt for some ghee or tahini!
Alternatively, if you were attempting a savoury porridge, bone broth would be a rock-your-world option, because bone broth is to gut health what Drake is to the charts lately; it’s delicious, very gentle and very high in minerals (the broth, not Drake.)
Oat and coconut milks are also more easily digestible. Dairy can be highly inflammatory if you are sensitive and hormone disruptive soy too. Unsweetened oat milk has the same awesome properties as oats, so it’s a double whammy! If you were really intent on sticking to cow’s milk because oat milk is too expensive… Just make your own oat milk here.
spice it up
Ok so I figured ‘top it up’ would be a good title for this section but then there’s toppings and there’s spices. Not the same in my world. Most of you health freaks will have heard of turmeric and cinnamon and their health benefits on the heart and brain and skin and nails and whatnot, and really, it’s true. Cinnamon is anti-inflammatory, and so are turmeric and ginger, which means they soothe the gut and support its many functions. So why not grate some fresh ginger, turmeric and add a whole cinnamon stick to your oats next time? Or even an anti-bacterial vanilla bean?
All those flavours echo winter and autumn, but you can turn your oats into a summertime breakfast by adding some açai powder or grapefruit essential oil, which, once again, fight inflammation and oxidation.
You wouldn’t serve risotto without a spice or herb, so why would you serve porridge plain? Using spices or oils is a great way to really infuse the porridge with those flavours and let them simmer a little, instead of plopping a few berries on top. The flavours get to know each other and every bite/slurp is pure bliss!
If you’re intent on not letting your sweet tooth go, I recommend using a natural sweetener, like coconut nectar, date jam or organic, raw honey (a great antibacterial)!
low and slow
Remember, low and slow. Taste-wise, that is the absolute best way to bring out the delicate flavour of oats. Especially when steel cut or if you’ve added some grains that need longer, in which case slow is your only choice. But even with rolled oats, they are far less denatured and shrivelled if you take it easy. Also, no microwaves. TBH, I’ve never been super comfortable with idea of having my food ‘waved’. Like, actual waves. Same as having the wi-fi travelling through my body. So I got rid of my microwave and haven’t looked back. The clean up is very manageable (one pot, one spatula, one bowl) and I’m at peace.
I cook my oats on the stove, by adding 1 part oats, one part milk and one and a bit parts boiled water, filtered from my Brita kettle. I use a little silicone spatula to stir it around and switch on to ‘6’ on my electric stove. I stir and stir and stir until it’s hot and just starts to pop big floppy bubbles. If you heat it too high, which I used to do, the oats turn to soup and have a watery, mushy texture. You’re not trying to kill the oat, so be gentle. Anything gut-healing generally takes a while; like yoghurt and bone broth and pulled meats. So just add liquid as needed and take your time, just like risotto.
Oats can also be turned into sourdough before cooking them to make them extra easily digestible and rich in beneficial bacteria: check out the instructions here.
give it a crunch
Porridge really is only porridge if there’s an element of excitement by adding the unexpected crunch factor, just like the cornfalkes from my childhood. Chia seeds and milled flax seeds are a great start: both high in omega 3s and fibre, and every little helps at this stage right? Again, excellent for your gut. I also really enjoy adding whole or chopped nuts (almonds and walnuts) or crunchy nut butter (almond is also best; the least mouldy of the butters). Coconut flakes, freeze dried berries, dried mulberries, goji berries, pumpkin seeds, toasted almond flakes or crispy kale, toasted pine nuts, crispy bacon all work! Let porridge be your canvas!
Let me know below how you prefer your morning oats!
Until next time,
All images linked to original sources!