Everyone in our home headed back to work or school today.  The weather here has been grim, so we’re getting off to the right start with the most traditional of English breakfasts: porridge.  Except that I am American, and I call it oatmeal.  Sorry, porridge just sounds so dreary.  Either way, it’s so good for you with its whole grains and protein.  But all of that warming nourishment is wasted if it is gluey, gloppy and boring.

Here are some of my tricks for keeping it easy and manageable.

I prefer steel-cut (US) or pinhead (UK) oats to rolled oats.  The health profile is virtually the same, but I prefer the texture of the sturdier oats.  The texture is also what lengthens the cooking time, but that doesn’t have to be a limitation.  In fact, it can be turned into an advantage in a busy weekday kitchen.

oatmeal pyrex

Not-rolled oats. Called pinhead in the UK and Steel-cut in the US.

Here is the routine: about once a week, I make a big pot of oatmeal to last us a few days.  The night before, I measure out about 2 cups of oats and toast it in the pan for a couple of minutes while I boil water in the kettle.  I add the boiling water (2x the volume of oatmeal) and simmer for a minute or two.  Heat off, top on, and off to bed.  Overnight the oatmeal continues to absorb the water and soften with the residual heat.  When we get up, I add a little water or milk (as needed), reheat and cook until the texture is right.  This usually takes about 4 minutes.

I season the whole batch with a glug of maple syrup and a pinch of salt.  I also usually add 1/4 cup or so of ground flaxseed (linseed) to boost the omegas.


Even well executed, this can still get dull, so we mix it up several different ways.  To the main porridge pot, a splash of vanilla or a pinch of cardamom can be added along with the maple syrup.  Sometimes I also add a dollop of butter or coconut oil.

Once at the table, the Fives can flavor the oatmeal as they wish from a selection of fun toppings, such as cinnamon sugar, cocoa powder, dried fruit.  They really enjoy making their own seasoning decisions, and it is such an easy thing to give them.  Grown-ups also like options like walnuts, pumpkin seeds, toasted coconut.

oatmeal options

The leftovers go in the fridge.  Over the next few days, oatmeal can be made up to order with a little milk or apple juice and 2 minutes in the microwave.

Wednesday's breakfast: sorted

Wednesday’s breakfast: sorted

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