It's official. Yesterday in recognition of the cooler weather settling in I replaced the usual granola in a client's breakfast with steel cut oats.
This whole grain cereal may be one of the healthiest foods on the planet, but I like it particularly for the nutty texture. Still, many consumers have never heard of steel cut oats, sometimes labeld "oat groats."
More popular are the ubiquitous rolled oats, which are oat grains hulled, then pushed through steel rollers to flatten them. For instant oatmeal, the grains are first cooked, then rolled out super-thin. Steel-cut oats, on the other hand, start with the whole grain--meaning the unadulterated bran, germ and endosperm, where all the nutrition is--then are cut into small pieces with steel blades and left unrolled so they look like little nubs of brown rice.
A single serving, or 1/4 cup dry, of steel-cut oats contains 150 calories, no sodium, very little fat, and plenty of dietary fiber.
Oats grow especially well in the cool moist climates of of the British Isles. Not surprisingly, oat porridge is practically the national dish of the Scotts. In this country the steel-cut variety is available from Quaker Oats and others, notably the McCann's company, which packs its product in a metal container with a distinctively old-fashioned and classy looking label. But you can also buy steel-cut oats in bulk at health food stores and groceries such as Whole Foods.
As you might imagine, the cooking time for steel-cut oats is longer than what you may be used to if your only experience is with rolled oats. Some recipes call for several hours of cooking to achieve a really creamy porridge. I recently saw a blog post recommending cooking steel-cut oats in a slow cooker with dried fruits. Apparently you can also prepare them in a rice cooker. Mine usually simmer on the stove for about an hour.
You can cook steel-cut oats in milk or in salted water. One method recommended by McCann's is to soak the oats overnight. Bring four cups water to boil, add one cup steel-cut oats and stir until the water is absorbed. Leave to soak overnight, then bring the cereal back to a boil in the morning and cook until tender.
A better breakfast than cooked outs with some raisins, chopped walnuts and brown sugar is hard for me to imagine.