I often cook and bake with rolled oats. But when the mornings are cool, I reach out for steel-cut oats and make a warm batch of breakfast porridge.
Steel-cut oats, also known as Irish or Scottish oats, are not available here in France or Switzerland. (I’ve looked everywhere and can’t find them, but if you know otherwise, please leave a comment and let me know!) When I visit my daughters in Canada or USA, I always bring back a few bags of steel-cut oats. My favourite brand is Bob’s Red Mill.
Steel-cut oats are whole oats (the groats) that have been cut into small rice-size pieces with a steel blade. Compared to rolled and instant oats, the steel-cut kind is the least processed. Instant quick oats are the most processed and can include artificial sweeteners and flavours.
Nutrition-wise, there is little variation between steel-cut and rolled oats. Both are nutritious. They’re a good source of protein and complex carbohydrates. They’re packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. And they are good for you: they improve blood sugar levels; they promote a healthy gut, heart and skin; they prevent diabetes Type-2 and cancer. They’re high in beta-glucan — a type of fiber with distinctive cholesterol-lowering properties.
However, when it comes to morning porridge, steel-cut oats give a creamier and heartier porridge than rolled oats. Even after cooking, steel-cut oats retain their shape and are chewier, more palatable and nuttier in taste.
Porridge made with steel-cut oats give you a steady stream of energy throughout the morning and early afternoon. It’s the ideal breakfast to have before heading out skiing or hiking in the mountains. That’s because steel-cut oats are digested more slowly than rolled oats, thus preventing a sudden spike in blood sugar levels. As Doctor Andrew Weil points out, it takes longer for digestive enzymes to reach the starch inside the thicker pieces of the steel-cut oats, and this slows down their conversion to sugar.
Steel-cut apple porridge
- 1½ cups almond milk, homemade or store-bought*
- 3 cups water
- A pinch of sea salt
- 1 cup steel-cut oats
- 1 tablespoon grape seed oil (or a light vegetable oil)
- ½ -1 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
- 1 large apple with peel on, diced
- Option: A drizzle of maple syrup or some granulated sugar cane can be added to your portion
* Can use another kind of nut or plant-based milk.
Pour the almond milk and water in a pot and heat this up on stove top on medium-high heat, stirring from time to time with a wooden spoon. Add a pinch of salt.
While this heats up, on stove-top, heat the oil in a skillet. When the oil is hot, reduce heat to medium and add the oats and cinnamon. It should sizzle a bit. Roast the oats with the cinnamon, stirring them constantly for two minutes. This will bring out the flavour of the oats. Take the skillet off the heat after two minutes of roasting.
When the liquid starts to foam and simmer, add the steel-cut oats and stir with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to medium-low.
Let this simmer gently uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring from time to time so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom. The porridge will thicken and get creamy.
After 20 minutes, add the chopped apples and simmer uncovered for an additional 10 minutes.
If you are not serving the entire batch immediately, transfer the remaining cooked porridge into a ceramic or glass container with a lid. It is better not to keep the porridge in the heated pot because it will continue to thicken.
For a more fluid porridge, add some water to your portion. For a sweeter taste, drizzle some maple syrup or sprinkle some granulated sugar cane. You can also top it with fruit, grains or nuts. It’s what you prefer.
Store in a covered container in the fridge. It keeps well, so your breakfast is done for the next few days. Just reheat it in microwave. Note that the porridge will continue to thicken in fridge, so you will need to add a bit of water to your bowl prior to heating it up.