What else can I use oats for other than porridge and crumble?
Clare, Stroud, Gloucestershire
Oatmeal has a lot going for it: it’s nutritious, filling, and a good value. Yes, they are protagonists in porridges and, for some, also in crumbles, but they also present many other possibilities, both sweet and savoury.
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It all comes down to what kind of oats Clare has. Spent jumbos, for example, would feel great on soda bread, both in the batter and sprinkled on before baking. Aside from making crispy toast, the charm of this bread lies in its simplicity: “Just mix all the wet ingredients together, mix all the dry ingredients together, and then combine the two,” says Roberta Hall-McCarron, chef/owner of The Little Chartroom at Edinburgh. “It’s quite a moist dough and the oats soak up that moisture very well, but it also helps keep the bread moist.”
Another oat-free breakfast option is pancakes, for which Ben Tish, head chef at Cubitt House group in London, substitutes flour for the oats. “Put oats, eggs, some baking powder, a banana, and some cinnamon in a blender, and add some yogurt or coconut milk to loosen it up.” Whiz and that’s your dough. However, if you fancy something salty, just swap the banana for avocado, ditch the cinnamon, and eat it with more avocado or tomatoes.
For the adventurous, Hall-McCarron suggests using pinhead oats for homemade haggis, or mixing them into a stuffing to go with your Sunday roast, or even veggie burgers: “They act as a good binder.” Meanwhile, Tish mixes her oats “to make it a little finer” and uses it to wrap oily fish, like mackerel, herring or salmon. “Brush the fish with grain or dijon mustard, then top it with oats to give it a crust and fry or bake it. The oats give it a nice nutty flavor.”
Perhaps the easiest solution of all, however, comes in the form of old-school flapjacks. That said, Jemma Wilson (aka Cupcake Jemma), co-owner of Crumbs & Doilies bakery in London, is also an advocate of including rolled oats in a “buttery biscuit base” for cheesecakes. Or she chooses the Hall-McCarron favorite: panna cotta. “Toast the oats pretty hard [but don’t burn them], then infuse them into the panna cotta mixture; It’s an interesting way to liven up a fairly simple dessert.” Go all out and toast extra oats with a little butter and sugar to sprinkle on top for a sweet texture.
Like Hall-McCarron, Wilson is a big believer in toasting his oats, but in his case it’s for oatmeal raisin cookies. To further deplete those supplies, try rolling the dough in extra oats before baking: “You might want to shell them a bit, to make them less imposing, then toss with demerara sugar for a really craggy, rough coating. And don’t be fooled by the understated nature of these cookies: “They might look a little boring next to their chocolate and caramel-filled brothers and sisters, but I love them,” says Wilson. “They are the underdogs of the cookie world.” The campaign starts now.