Oats: Healthy can be Delicious
The words 'dietary fibre' conjure up mental pictures of "good-for-you" breakfasts rather than scrumptious treats.
However, some of these cereals are pretty talented in the indulgence department too.
Oats are the most gastronomically gifted of the cereal stable. Deliciously nutty and high in soluble fibre (which assists in lowering blood cholesterol levels), it has suffered some less than flattering descriptions in the past.
Dr Samuel Johnson in his Dictionary of the English Language (1755) defined it as "A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people ". Its ability to ripen on cold wet conditions made it a staple food in Scotland.
Apart from the challenging (to non-offal lovers) haggis, traditional Scottish oatmeal specialties include herrings in oatmeal, in which fillets are coated in fine oatmeal and pan-fried. The nuttiness of oats balances the rich oiliness of the fish and is an excellent way to do sardines and other oily fish.
Oatcakes have traditionally been the bread equivalents in oat-growing regions, each regional having its version. In Lincolnshire, the unleavened cakes would be eaten hot, split and buttered, or with slices of cold boiled bacon. West-Riding oatcakes, also known as haver or clapper , were thin crisp cakes made from a yeasted dough. Oatcakes are an excellent accompaniment for cheese.
Oatmeal comes in many grades ranging from pin head; rough; through varying degrees of medium; and up to superfine. Different culinary applications call for different grades. Rolled oats were developed by the Quaker Oat Company in 1877 and are made by steaming and rolling pinhead oatmeal. (Instant oats are finer and thinner than rolled oats and have been pre-cooked.)
Oats in Fruit Crumbles
Rolled oats add a gorgeous crisp nutty texture
to fruit crumbles. Substitute oats for half of the flour in your favourite crumble recipe. Here's a definitively non-humble crumble recipe:
- Combine 65g plain
flour, 65g rolled oats, 125g coarsely ground almonds, and 125g light brown
sugar in a food processor.
- Add 175g cold unsalted butter, cut into bits, and
pulse until you get a coarse crumb-like mixture.
- Spread a thick layer over your
stewed fruit base. If you are using fresh fruit, cut them up into small pieces
so that they cook through in the time that it takes for the crumble to cook and
brown. Fruit possibilities include apples, apricots, peaches or nectarines. You
can also add some berries (fresh or frozen) to the fruit for additional interest. Stewed apple & rhubarb is also excellent.
- Bake the fruit crumble in a pre-heated 200°C oven for about 30 minutes or until the topping is golden brown. Serve hot or warm with cream or ice cream.
Convenience tip: you can freeze this crumble mixture frozen in a zip-lock bag. If you want to make one or two servings of fruit crumble as an after dinner treat, just grease some individual soufflé dishes (or similar) with butter, fill to about three-quarters full with coarsely chopped fruit and top with some of the frozen crumble.
Using Oats in Muffins
Muffins are one of the most delicious ways to get your daily fibre quota. Rolled oats are great in earthier style muffins where there are chunks of fruits or nuts like roughly diced raw apple, dates, dried fruits, walnuts, pecans etc.
Finer textured bran, whether of oat, wheat or mixed cereals, provide a more ethereal mouth feel which is more appropriate (to me anyway) for berry, lemon and yoghurt, honey or finely grated apple muffins.
Banana muffins on the other hand straddle the oat texture divide very comfortably.
Oats in Biscuits & Slices
The texture of rolled oats makes them a natural for biscuits and slices. The ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) biscuit is one of the best known Antipodean oat-based treats.
Made with butter, flour, oats, desiccated coconut and golden syrup, this long-keeping biscuit was made by Australian and New Zealand women as part of the "home effort" to help boost the morale of soldiers at the front in World War 1.
Crisp outside, chewy inside orange and apricot oatmeal cookies and fruity muesli slices are amongst my favourite snacks.
Recipe: MUESLI SLICE
Makes 12 pieces
100g light brown sugar
150g self raising flour
90g frozen grated coconut, defrosted*
90g rolled oats
75g raisins or sultanas
75g dried dates, coarsely chopped
75g dried apricots, coarsely chopped
60g pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
2 tbsp water
1 cup apple puree**
125g tahini (sesame seed paste)
1x 60g egg, lightly beaten
- In a large mixing bowl, mix together sugar, flour, coconut, oats, dried fruit and pumpkin seeds.
- Heat honey and water and apple puree in a saucepan until honey is melted. Pour the hot honey mixture, apple puree and the tahini over the flour mixture. Stir until the mixture comes together. It will be quite stiff. Stir in the beaten egg.
- Line a lamington tin (18cm x 25cm x 3.5cm) with baking paper. Spread the mixture evenly in the tin.
- Bake in a preheated 180°C oven for about 40 minutes or until golden brown.
- Allow to cool on a wire rack. When cold, cut into 12 pieces.
The slices keep well if they are individually wrapped with clingfilm and stored in an airtight container.
*Frozen grated coconut is readily available in the freezer section of Asian food stores. You can substitute dried shredded coconut: the slice will be slightly drier.
** To make apple puree, peel and core 2 apples (I use Granny Smith apples; other tart apples are fine). Chop into small pieces and cook in a small saucepan, covered, in about half a cup of water. Stir frequently to break down the apple pieces into a puree, adding a little more water as necessary to stop the apples from sticking to the saucepan.