Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day ! Irish Oatmeal

Yes, it's true. My children are half Irish. So if you think it's culturally confusing to be married now to an Indian from Guyana, try having three kids who are half Irish! I did my best to inculcate them with both cultures. They eat Italian. They might also speak Italian only their father can't, to his lasting regret. Now, as far as the Irish half of their heritage, their mom wasn't really "into" being Irish. I, however have had a life long love affair with all things Irish. As a child, I grew up in Astoria, New York which at the time (like many New York neighborhoods)  was filled with members of the Irish diaspora. My first crush was the girl next store, Janet Kennedy who was 8 years older than me. She was a nurse at St. Vincent's in the city, and in her white cap and blue cape, she looked like an angel. We had off from school on St. Patrick's Day of course, and part of the ritual was going down to the front of the church to watch Father O'Rourke lead the St. Joseph's Brigade in the parade. Having an appreciation of American folk music as I do, I was led to explore the roots of the music in the British Isles and my nano contains a great selection of Irish music like the Bothy Band which I highly recommend.

As far as food goes, the Irish have not made a great impact on my life until recently. My semi annual trip to the doctor revealed a high cholesterol count in spite of all the seafood I eat. This is something I've inherited and since I have no other warning signs of heart trouble, I was unconcerned. The new doctor however, suggested I eat more fiber like oatmeal. For years, my normal  breakfast has consisted of Italian bread toast and coffee. Now, I was being asked to eat oatmeal. I like oatmeal, but until this recent change, I preferred it with additions of fruit, nuts and seeds. Now, I was being asked to eat it on a more or less daily basis, so I needed something that was quick, the perfect consistency and good tasting.

After several experiments with different brands and styles of oatmeal, I made the following observations:

1) Instant oatmeal, while tasty has too much sugar.
2) "Quick "oats and "old fashioned" oats are ok but in my opinion, need to be toasted to get the best flavor, and were still not the right consistency for us.
3) Steel cut oats or "Irish style" were the right consistency and delicious but took much too long to cook. (about 30 minutes for a serving of four)

At this point, I felt a little like Goldilocks. Then, someone happened to tell me of a mutual friend who soaked his grains over night to decrease cooking time. I decided to experiment.

Before bed time, I poured water over a serving of steel cut oatmeal. I used the recommended ratio of about 4 to 1 water to oatmeal. Then, I covered the pot and went to bed.

The next morning at exactly 7:38, I lit the stove under my oatmeal pot, set the heat to high, added a handful of "jumbo" raisins to the pan and turned my attention to grinding my beans and starting the water for my daily cup of Joe. I also tuned the radio to "Morning Edition".

By 7:41, the oatmeal was boiling. (Remember, I'm only cooking here for myself so the time is a little quicker than if I were preparing breakfast for Neeta and me). A short time later, the kettle was whistling.

 I poured my water into the French Press we use to make coffee and set the timer for 5 minutes, the recommended brewing time.

At 7:49 (11 minutes after I started the process) my oatmeal was totally cooked and my coffee poured. I plated the oatmeal, poured a little maple syrup over it,sprinkled a few nuts and sat down to a happy St. Patrick's Day breakfast. If you try this, remember it will take about a minute or two longer for two people, and maybe 4 or 5 minutes longer for 4 people. That's still half the time than what's recommended on the box.

Try it. It's good for you.


  1. I like having oatmeal for breakfast as well. I like to add a tsp. of brown sugar and dried cranberries.

  2. That sounds good, Rachel. We prefer the raisins because my finicky wife thinks cranberries are too "sour"-her description of almost any fruit not picked that morning from a tree in Guyana!

  3. Thanks for the tip. I love steel cut oats but they do take too long to cook when you're hungry. I'll definately give them another try.

  4. Yeah! the only thing is you have to plan on being hungry the night before.

  5. Joe. I also use Swanson's but I add about a cup of vermouth and a pinch of thyme to every 4 cups I use.

  6. I like that, Mary.Vermouth or sherry is a great idea.

  7. I have never tried Irish oatmeal before. Sounds good!