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Issue 40 - Delicious and Nutritious

Scotland Magazine Issue 40
August 2008

 

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Delicious and Nutritious

Sue Lawrence provides some more Scottish recipes, this time starring the humble oat.

A Scottish farmer, David Henderson, who died in 1998 aged 109 swore by a diet of porridge, prunes and an improbable mixture of gin and cattle salts. I like to think it was the porridge that encouraged longevity, not the gin – or even cattle salts.

In rural areas, there was something called the ‘porridge drawer,’ a prime example of Scottish thrift.

Vast pots of porridge would be cooked, then poured directly into the drawer in the kitchen dresser (called a ‘kist’ in the north-east of Scotland). It was allowed to cool and become solid, then cut into sections and taken onto the hills, as sustenance for the hard day’s work. In the evening, slices called calders were cut off and fried then served with eggs or fish.

Bill McConachie, one of the engineers at Grampian Oats recalls the cold porridge in the drawer in his kitchen being cut and eaten for anything from one week to 10 days. Hebridean fisherman Dods Macfarlane remembers older folk in the north of Lewis telling him of a similar tradition, originating in dire necessity, since, apart from porridge, there was very little else to eat and so the morning’s pan would be made to last longer than breakfast.

As a Scot, I was brought up on oats. There were oatcakes, flapjacks, bannocks and of course porridge. Soups and stews were thickened with oatmeal; apple crumbles topped with oatflakes; skirlie, made from toasted oats and onion, used to stuff chicken or served with mince. With the increasing awareness nowadays of the valuable contribution oats play in a healthy diet – this low-GI (Glycaemic Index) cereal is high in zinc, protein, iron, B vitamins, calcium, and cholesterol-reducing soluble fibre – we all ought to be making more of an effort to include oats in our everyday diets. A breakfast of porridge is a good start is every morning.

Porridge has been described as the new sushi, with oats sales growing year on year. In Scotland, there is now a peripatetic ‘porridge bar’ going round fairs and shows serving bowls of the hot stuff – and the long queues are testament to its popularity.

During a visit to Grampian Oat Products at its large factory near Banff, Aberdeenshire, I witnessed the modern processing of oats. Having been sown in March or April, they are usually ready for cutting around the middle to end of August. Oats come from The Black Isle, Morayshire and Aberdeenshire in the north and as far south as Perthshire and northern Fife. The advantage of such a wide distribution of farmers means that if rain is hindering the progress of the cereal in Inverness, there is a good chance that the crop further south in Perth is faring better.

The varieties of oats are chosen according to compatibility with the soil and climatic conditions. The climate of Scotland suits oats perfectly, as growth is slow, because of the average annual temperature: there is little danger of the crop ripening too quickly under a sweltering summer sun. Cool temperatures mean the kernels develop and fill out very gradually, and so they become plump and full of flavour.

Once they are accepted as suitable, the raw oats are graded, cleaned then dried in silos, before being removed according to demand then milled. The hulling process removes the outer husks from the oats, to leave only the kernel, by a machine called a ‘paddy separator.’ Several further processing operations are then carried out, to ensure the oat kernels do not contain any loose husk fibres or other impurities. Then the finished product is ready to be bagged up and converted into everything from porridge (for that drawer) to divine desserts.

THE OATMEAL OF ALFORD Montgarrie Mill, Alford, Aberdeenshire AB33 8AP Tel: +44 (0)1975 562 209 www.oatmealofalford.com HAMLYNS OATMEAL Grampian Oats, Boyndie, Banff AB45 2LR Tel: +44 (0)1261 843 330 www.hamlynsoats.co.uk Oatmeal producers

WARM BERRY
PORRIDGE (SERVES 3-4)

50g / 1 3/4oz medium oatmeal
25g / 1oz light muscovado sugar
75ml / 2 1/2 fl oz whisky-based
cream liqueur
175g / 6oz raspberries, blueberries and
blackberries, roughly crushed and
whole berries to garnish
150ml / 5fl oz double cream,
lightly whipped
WARM BERRY
PORRIDGE (SERVES 3-4)
1. Place the oatmeal, 300ml / 10fl oz cold
water and the sugar in a pan and bring
slowly to the boil, stirring well.
2. Once boiling, reduce the heat and
simmer, stirring, for five minutes or
until thick.
3. Remove from the heat and stir in the
whisky liqueur. Set aside for 10 minutes,
stirring occasionally, then stir in the berries.
4. Fold in the cream and serve at once,
decorated with fresh berries.

CHOCOLATE
CRANACHAN WITH
RASPBERRIES
(SERVES 8-10)

200g / 7 oz whole rolled oats
150g/ 5 1/2oz toasted hazelnuts,chopped
100g / 3 1/2 oz light muscovado sugar
250g / 9 oz quality dark and milk
chocolate, grated
600ml / 1 pint double cream,
lightly whipped
500ml /18 fl oz crème fraiche
150ml / 5 fl oz Drambuie
450g / 1 lb raspberries (divided into 3)

1. Toast the oats by spreading them onto
a foil-lined baking tray and place this
under a preheated grill, for three-four
minutes, until golden brown. Stir often to
prevent burning.
2. Mix together the hazelnuts and sugar,
add the grated chocolate then tip in the
very hot oats, directly from the grill. Stir
everything together well until the
chocolate melts, allow to cool then break
up a little as it tends to form clumps.
3. In another bowl, gently combine the
lightly whipped cream with the Drambuie
and crème fraiche.
4. In a large glass dish, spoon in a third
of the oat mixture, then layer a third of
the Drambuie cream on top.
5. Lightly crush a third of the raspberries
and sprinkle on top then spoon another
third of the oats on top then more cream.
6. Crush another third raspberries,
sprinkle on top then scatter on the last
oats then a final layer of cream.
7. Smooth the surface, cover and
refrigerate for 24 hours.
8. Next day, top with the remaining
whole raspberries.