On these chilly mornings I am reminded of the superlative breakfasts I enjoyed at Ballymaloe House in County Cork, Ireland. The porridge was one of the highlights. It was made from stone ground oats, alongside was a jug of cream and unrefined brown sugar that melted almost instantly into toffee-like trails. Steel-cut oats, or pinhead oats, are different from the rolled oats that are more commonly used. Rolled oats are first steamed, then pressed between rollers and dried. They absorb liquid more quickly and thus the porridge cooks faster but with a loss of flavour. For steel-cut oats, each oat ‘groat’ is split into several nubby pieces. Usually simmered with water (sometimes pre-soaked) the porridge retains much of the shape of the groat, resulting in a chewy and nutty-tasting porridge.
Being made with water you can add cream to this bowl of porridge without any twinge of guilt. As a child my favourite was hot milk, brown sugar and a lump of butter. I enjoyed watching the butter melt into a golden pool on the surface of the bowl before I stirred it in and ate it. I have never been a fan of slicing raw fruit such as bananas into my oatmeal. And I would prefer to have a separate bowl of stewed fruit rather than combining them.