Porridge - A Scottish Staple
As I trudge up the sodden path, I shiver and wrap my scarf tighter around myself. The winter is setting in and all I can think of is getting out of the cold and into some comfy clothes. 20 minutes later I'm home, dry and settled into my cosy cashmere jumper and sweatpants. The fire is on and I get into cooking mode, in preparation, for the task ahead. The only thing better than comfortable clothes, is comfort food. Tonight there is no question, porridge is the winner.
As I stir the warm, oaty concoction the scent surrounds me. Smooth and sweet, there is nothing quite like a bowl porridge. After a hard days work, what better way to warm up, than with a hearty bowl of oats, milk and anything else I fancy? Although this dish is generally considered a breakfast, being such a versatile dish makes it perfect for any time of day.
The decade old debate on the best porridge dish has never wavered in my family. As a child, my grandfather would force feed me savory porridge. A mixture of oats and milk, with a touch of salt. He would insist this was the way porridge was 'meant to be'. Never a fan, I was always determined to turn my bowl into a dessert. Honey or sugar? How about some banana or strawberries? Whatever I fancied at the time would transform this staple dish into anything I wished.
As a lover of porridge, I was delighted to discover World Porridge Day! A unique celebration of the famous Scottish staple that takes place at the annual Porridge Making Championships. Held in the town hall of Carrbridge, the dramatic, surrounding landscape, of the Cairngorms, is the perfect backdrop to enjoy this warming comfort food. There are three prizes to be won and contestants travel for hundreds of miles to take part in this unique competition. Prizes up for grabs include the World Porridge Making Champion, the Golden Spurtle Trophy and the Specialty Winner.
Savory Porridge with garlic mushrooms and spring onions
The History of Porridge
Porridge, or Oatmeal, is a dish that has existed in Scotland for over thousands of years. To make porridge, simply boil oatmeal, or rolled oats. It is then up to you to add milk, fruit, salt, or whatever takes your fancy. It isn't difficult to understand why Porridge has become such a staple dish in Scotland. Not only is this dish warming and filling, it is a great source of energy and is extremely easy to make.
Porridge Oats have been grown in Scotland since the medieval years, and this easy dish has become one of the most popular breakfast dishes, especially during the winter months. "Porridge Drawers" were common among Scottish households, where porridge would be stored throughout the day and eaten later on as a solid bar of oats. The preparation of porridge is a controversial topic, with many insisting that the 'correct' porridge recipe consists of only oats, water and a pinch of salt. Others prefer the creamier result of mixing milk and water to soak and cook the oats with. This heavily debated topic is one that has never wavered throughout history.
There are also some interesting porridge-related traditions in Scotland. The rule that porridge must be served in a wooden bowl, and stirred with a wooden rod called a 'Spurtle', is a common tradition. Another, less well-known tradition, dictates that the dish should be eaten standing up. To stand while eating this dish is believed to show a sign of respect for it. It is highly likely, though, that this rule came from rural workers needing to eat their porridge on-the-go, as they made their way to work.
These days, porridge has been given something of a makeover, with the popularity of the GI Diet. The diet promotes foods with a low glycaemic index. Being a good source of complex carbohydrates, the oats help to release energy slowly into the bloodstream. As the oats are wholegrain, they have a natural goodness that is absent in other processed cereals, which means they are great for lowering cholesterol. Known for reducing the risk of diabetes, quelling hangovers, healing the skin, pepping up the immune system, tackling depression and obesity, as well as reducing blood pressure, it is no wonder that this simple dish has become so fashionable in recent years.
As the 10th of October approaches, this cold autumn night is the perfect time for me to raise my bowl in honour of all the porridge champions, with porridge lovers world wide. Whichever way you make yours, make sure you do so this week, with or without a Spurtle in hand!
Porridge with Nut Butter and Banana
Want to make your own?
50g Porridge Oats
350ml Milk or Water (or a mixture of the two)
Greek Yogurt, thinned with a little milk and clear honey, to serve
Put the oats in a saucepan, pour the milk or water and sprinkle in a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil and simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring from time to time and watching carefully that it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.
To serve, pour into a bowl and drizzle with honey or spoon yogurt on top.