Real Oatmeal: Morning, Noon & Night - Article
Scottish Stone-Ground Oatmeal of Alford
by Ann Espo
Every list of “super foods” has oats near the top. You’ve seen the commercials - eating oats is known to lower cholesterol and improve cardiovascular health. Oats are an excellent source of fiber. They even help stabilize blood sugar - at any time of day.
You may think of oatmeal as a bland and gummy porridge, but Oatmeal of Alford is nothing like the rolled oats most of us are familiar with. We have something much better in mind: delicious, nutty-flavored oats with a wonderfully toothsome texture. And did we mention high-fiber and organic?
This is the Oatmeal of Alford; organic, stonecut, pinhead oats from Scotland.
Not only does oatmeal provide exceptionally efficient fuel, but the Oatmeal of Alford is really delicious, plain or dressed up, in any number of ways. Of course, these pinhead oats make exceptional oatmeal for breakfast, but, they’re also versatile enough to be part of a whole host of other dishes, from salads to desserts.
The Secret of the Oatmeal of Alford
The unusual flavor and texture of these amazing oats may be attributed to the final drying process, carried out in the old fashioned 'flat kiln', which is believed to be the only one of its kind used in Britain today. The oats are dried in the kiln for four hours, during which time they’re turned twice by hand shovel. It is this very specialized process, perfected by the miller, which makes the flavor and texture unique. The distinct oat grains are then stone-cut into small pieces - smaller than Irish "steel cut" oats - thus the name “pinhead.” Unlike “old-fashioned” oatmeal, they’re not steamed and rolled flat.
As a result, hot cereal made with pinhead oats has a texture that we’ve heard described as "risotto-like," as well as a nutty flavor quite different from cooked rolled oats. Alford's pinhead oats hold up well to cooking, retaining their shape and taking on a pleasantly chewy texture - a breakfast you can sink your teeth into!
Delicious Ideas for Breakfast . . .
Here in the US, we mostly eat our oats for breakfast, and we’ve all heard many times that the benefits of eating breakfast are many. Well, then, consider the benefits not just of eating breakfast – but of eating healthy oatmeal for breakfast! Plus, it’s delicious!
My very favorite way to enjoy Oatmeal of Alford is to make it with half water and half milk (I use nonfat milk with excellent results). Then, I top it with blueberries (fresh or frozen), toasted nuts (I love walnuts or pecans), and a little bit of brown sugar (dark muscovado - yum!). If you do use milk, you have to tend the oatmeal a bit more carefully, but it’s well worth the trouble when you taste that creamy, nutty goodness. And since oats, blueberries, and walnuts show up on “healthiest foods” lists everywhere, you know you’re doing something good for yourself with this breakfast!
The Oatmeal of Alford is also delicious with fresh fruit, dried apricots, raisins, honey or maple syrup, and in the summer, of course, fresh berries are hard to beat. In the winter, try stirring in some of your favorite preserves – after all, it is just preserved fruit, and you probably won’t need any extra sugar on top.
And Beyond the Morning Meal. . .
Oatmeal is more of an all-day staple in northern Europe, where enjoying it isn’t limited to breakfast. Pinhead oats make a sensational Coconut Pudding – very similar to rice pudding, but with a heartier texture and nuttier flavor. Plus, making this ultimate comfort food with oats instead of rice boosts fiber considerably, and the pudding is just as rich, creamy and delicious. For a truly luscious treat, serve the pudding topped with toasted coconut and pecans.
Oatmeal and breadcrumbs have long been used in meatloaf as extenders and to keep the meat moist. Using breadcrumbs will yield a soft, tender texture, while the pinhead oats produce a more interesting loaf. Our meatloaf recipe calls for adding pinhead oats to a blend of beef, pork and veal for a satisfying and really appealing textural combo.
Pinhead oats also make wonderful “risotto.” The classic cooking technique enhances the oats’ nuttiness. Our Oat Risotto with Butternut Squash and Preserved Lemon has all the wonderful qualities of a classic Italian risotto, in addition to the Moroccan-inspired flavors of preserved lemon and cinnamon. Try making it with vegetable broth for a sensational vegetarian meal. Pinhead oats are a great substitute for bulgar in tabbouleh, that classic grain salad of the Middle East.
So while the days are still cold and the sun never that high, look to oatmeal for a warm, cozy breakfast but also for a comfort-food dinner.
(c) ChefShop.com, 2010