Let’s talk about mornings, shall we? And this brilliant steel cut oat porridge, or oatmeal.
In our house, most mornings currently look something like this: baby in high chair chewing on toy/washcloth/kitchen utensil (anything but food, it seems); big kid racing around on the floor with whichever train/car/monster truck toy has taken his fancy for the morning. Hubby and I attempting what may be the only conversation we have all day in between making coffee (him), assisting with toy vehicle play (also usually him), keeping the baby happy (me) and providing food for everyone (me, or a joint effort).
At some point the big kid will decide he’s ravenously hungry and start pulling cereal boxes, plastic bowls and spoons out of the pantry before roaring for milk to drown the day’s selection in. Coffee will be made, thank you brilliant coffee-making husband, I have no idea how bad this time of day would look without your skills and do not care to find out. We will all dash to consume some sort of meal before the baby cries to be released from the high chair, and the day really kicks off* with trying to get everyone out of the house. *I say ‘kicks off’ with an ironic nod to the fact we’ve probably all been up for at least 2 hours by that point.
I think it’s fair to say, then, the so-called most important meal of the day often sees me (and hubby) struggle with the time to eat, let alone spend any length of time making it.
Nursing a little one means it’s actually essential that I get something nutritious and filling in soon after getting up, but I am easily bored and find if I don’t have something interesting ready to go I end up snacking on random bits of fruit and toast discarded by the 3 year old as he eats his second breakfast (yes, really. Twenty minutes after the first breakfast, mostly).
I have been known to turn to baked goods if that’s what my eyes land on first, which is gratifying in the short term but leaves me feeling low by about 9am.
Enter steel cut oats.
If you’re yet to encounter oatmeal made with steel cut rather than good old rolled oats, let me convince you that this is the week to try it. I don’t mind a bowl of rolled-oat oatmeal at all, but steel cut oats takes breakfast to a whole new level.
Rather than being steamed and rolled flat, the oats are, as the name implies, cut (with steel blades? One can only assume) into nubbly little pieces which cook up into nutty, distinct grains with far more personality than a rolled oat. They retain a sort of chewiness and I absolutely adore it.
As with pretty much all the recipes you find here, this can be done quite successfully without a steam oven – in this case using a saucepan and a lot of stirring on the stovetop. But the steam oven gives steel cut oatmeal – and, incidentally, rolled-oat oatmeal, but that’s for another day – a better texture with far less active work. I think if your steam oven cooking is reserved only for entertaining and fancy meals you are missing out on all the great everyday recipes you could be using it for, and this is definitely a case in point.
Before you head off to buy steel cut oats (most supermarkets and every health food store I know sells them now, but you can get these ones online if they’re hard to find near you) and set them on the bench for the morning, be warned that this recipe takes a full hour to cook in the steam oven. It’s not much work to get started and there’s no stirring or attention needed during that time, but I can see you wondering how on earth that fits into the chaotic morning scenes at our place, and how it will work at yours.
Here’s the truly great thing: steel cut oatmeal is even better reheated than it is straight after cooking, so you can cook it the day before. I cook enough for 4-5 days worth of breakfasts in one hit and we just spoon it into bowls and use the reheat setting on our steam oven when we want to eat.
Top the hot oatmeal with whatever you normally would (maple syrup, roasted fruit or fresh berries are my staples; my husband likes brown sugar and cinnamon) and you’ve got an almost effortless but really hearty breakfast ready to go in a few minutes.
Finally, if you get bored eating your oatmeal for days in a row, you can use the leftovers to make these muffins, which I have done a number of times and will definitely do again (I cook them using a combi steam setting and they’re lovely and moist). They don’t keep that well but they freeze and reheat beautifully, so you’ve got a not too sweet and portable oatmeal-like breakfast option to mix things up.
Happy steam oven cooking, see you here again soon.
Steel Cut Oatmeal
- 2 tbs butter salted, optional, see notes. If you aren't using butter, add a good pinch of salt with the liquid
- 2 cups steel cut oats
- 2 cups whole milk full cream milk
- 4 cups water
- Melt the butter in an ovenproof casserole pan over medium heat. Add the oats, stir to coat and let them toast for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently. They’re done when your kitchen starts to smell like popcorn.
- Pour in the milk and water, stir gently to combine and put in your steam oven (a cold start is fine here). Set the temperature to 212⁰F/100⁰C, steam setting (100% humidity). Cook for 1 hour.
- Remove from oven and either cool to room temperature before putting in the fridge for reheating the following day, or stir and let the oatmeal stand for 10-15 minutes to thicken before serving (it will seem very loose when you take it out of the oven but thickens up quite quickly after a mix).
- Serve hot with your choice of extra milk, fruit, syrup, honey and/or spices.
- This will keep for 4-5 days in the fridge. Reheat portions using your steam oven (100⁰C, steam only) for about 10 minutes.
- The butter-toasting step below is completely optional but if you are cooking in a vessel which can go from stovetop to oven it’s quick and for a relatively small amount of butter it adds so much extra nutty flavour, plus a luxurious buttery undertone. If your pan/dish will also transfer into the fridge for storage after cooking, you’re really winning on the convenience front. I adore my Le Creuset low casserole pan for this (and so many other things) – it goes from my induction hob straight into the steam oven, and after cooking I just pop the lid on and the whole pan goes in the fridge until we’ve finished our oatmeal a few days later.
But I don’t have a steam/combi-steam oven! You can do this completely on the stovetop but your arm muscles will get a workout as it’ll have to be stirred almost constantly to avoid catching on the bottom of the pan. You may want to use a bit less liquid to start with (try 1 cup milk and 3 cups water), adding more if necessary towards the end of cooking. I also found the texture of the stovetop version much better (and cooking much faster) if the oats were soaked in the liquid overnight prior to cooking, though it’s not strictly necessary.
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