Shirley Spear’s overnight oats

Sunday Herald Life - - CONTENTS - By Shirley Spear

THERE’S al­ways some­thing new for my gen­er­a­tion to try and this idea is some­thing quite de­li­cious of which I whole­heart­edly ap­prove. We will never en­cour­age the younger gen­er­a­tion to live by our old-fashioned ways, but we can meet them half­way with their zany, adopted life­styles and when it comes to eat­ing a health­ier diet, this is some­thing very important to embrace.

Food-on-the-go is some­thing my mother def­i­nitely would have frowned upon. In fact, it was against reg­u­la­tions at my Ed­in­burgh sec­ondary school to be seen eat­ing in the street if wear­ing our uni­form, com­plete with hideous hat. Un­daunted by the rule book and fear­less of haughty pre­fects, we shared out packs of chew­ing gum and rolled up our waist­bands to shorten our skirts as soon as we were out­side the gate, pin­ning our hats to the back of our back­combed hair with Kirby grips. We walked ev­ery­where to save on bus fares, set­ting off into town after school with just enough to spend in Joe’s Cof­fee Bar in Loth­ian Road. It was won­der­ful there, with its juke box, bright orange dé­cor and se­cret booths to huddle in. The glass cups and saucers were the height of so­phis­ti­ca­tion and it was glo­ri­ous to be seen there with the in-crowd and a cof­fee.

To­day it seems that ev­ery­where is a cof­fee shop, yet dozens of peo­ple can be seen walk­ing along the streets car­ry­ing take­away cups. Eat­ing out is com­mon­place and busi­nesses have geared up to pro­vide in­stant, easy meals at all times of the day. On the good side, these can be de­li­cious, healthy and nu­tri­tious, but there are many quick fixes which could be bet­ter and some that should be avoided com­pletely.

For me, there’s nothing worse than sit­ting on the bus or train with the neigh­bour­ing pas­sen­ger dig­ging in greed­ily to their take­away meal and drink. The smell of fried fast food can be nau­se­at­ing. Even if I haven’t eaten all day, I still find it dif­fi­cult to eat on public trans­port, al­though I have been known to par­take of a ScotRail cof­fee and short­bread – dis­creetly, of course. I once took a break­fast crois­sant on board for the jour­ney through to Glas­gow and was over­come with em­bar­rass­ment as the crumbs cas­caded down my shirt-front and into my lap. Never again.

And so it’s been with im­mense interest that I have watched the growth of mo­bile por­ridge bars in Scot­land. One Ed­in­burgh com­pany in par­tic­u­lar, Stoats, is so suc­cess­ful, it’s grown ex­po­nen­tially within the past 12 years. Their lit­tle pots of in­stant por­ridge, oat bars and other prod­ucts have crept onto su­per­mar­ket shelves and been copied by the big, traditional pro­duc­ers of por­ridge oats, sizin­gup to the new com­pe­ti­tion.

It is, of course, so much more eco­nom­i­cal to buy a packet of rolled oats and make a pot for the fam­ily first thing in the morn­ing. There is nothing cheaper, more sus­tain­ing, nor health­ier to start the day, than a bowl of hot por­ridge. Scat­ter with fresh berries or a spoon­ful of brown su­gar or honey and it becomes a warm hug in a bowl. But for those who are al­ways in a rush to get some­where on time, grab­bing an in­stant pot to re­heat at break time, or to eat on the hoof is of­ten the al­ter­na­tive.

How life has changed. I laugh at the thought of hav­ing a mi­crowave in the of­fice. The high­light of the day in my very first job in Dundee, was the tea lady with her trol­ley and the brown-stained, thick blue melamine cups. As the ju­nior, it was my job to col­lect the hot drinks from the cor­ri­dor and de­liver them to the boss and my col­leagues, po­litely plac­ing the cups care­fully on their desks and hand­ing round the bis­cuits. We were for­bid­den to chat and the daily rig­ma­role was con­ducted in si­lence.

Next Satur­day, Oc­to­ber 7, I will be in Car­rbridge, help­ing to judge the 21st World Por­ridge Mak­ing Cham­pi­onships. No doubt this will be a row­dier, more fes­tive oc­ca­sion than my mem­o­ries of sad of­fice cof­fee breaks. Com­peti­tors and spec­ta­tors will flock to the small vil­lage, which is just off the A9 be­tween Aviemore and In­ver­ness.

In­ter­na­tional fol­low­ing has in­creased year-on-year for this Highland event, and the line-up for 2017 will see en­trants from as far afield as Iceland, Russia and Switzer­land, as well as Scot­land and many other coun­tries. The com­peti­tors have the most ran­dom as­sort­ment of back­grounds and I am look­ing for­ward to meet­ing them all – and seeing how they make their ba­sic por­ridge. I judged this com­pe­ti­tion once be­fore, sev­eral years ago. As with my ex­pe­ri­ence of judg­ing mar­malade in the Lake District’s an­nual Mar­malade Awards, it is surprising how dif­fer­ent a sim­ple recipe can man­i­fest it­self in such a wide range of fin­ished prod­ucts. Com­pe­ti­tion to win the cov­eted 2017 Golden Spur­tle Award will be hard-fought.

As well as mak­ing traditional por­ridge, be­gin­ning by soak­ing oat­meal overnight, there will be a sec­ond com­pe­ti­tion for the most un­usual recipe.

Hav­ing al­ready writ­ten about traditional por­ridge, I had won­dered what to do in cel­e­bra­tion of the Cham­pi­onships. Then some­one much younger than me sug­gested I should high­light overnight oats. To my shame I’d never heard of this, but hav­ing tried it out us­ing wild bram­bles I agree it tastes ab­so­lutely de­li­cious.

There are all number of al­ter­na­tives to this recipe, as any com­bi­na­tion of fruit, nuts and seeds can be added to the ba­sic oats, milk and yo­ghurt mix­ture. You can cre­ate your own fam­ily favourites for this in­stant break­fast in a jam jar. It takes only a small taste of fresh fruit to make a pot come alive and the flavours meld so nat­u­rally with the oats. A mix­ture of un­cooked oat­meal with liq­uid is called a brose in the Scots lan­guage. The pop­u­lar term be­came syn­ony­mous with shared food of any kind as well as al­co­holic drinks based upon the creamy brose. Oat­meal lends it­self to many flavours, both sweet and savoury, wild or cul­ti­vated. It is the most ver­sa­tile in­gre­di­ent and full of nat­u­ral good­ness. Ev­ery­one should en­joy por­ridge oats ev­ery day, sit­ting in, on-the-hoof, snack­ing or graz­ing. After all, the Scots grew strong on the mighty oat and some­times, we could all do with a re­boot.

OVERNIGHT OATS

(Makes 1 gen­er­ous por­tion) 75g por­ridge oats 125ml fresh milk 2 tbsp nat­u­ral yo­ghurt 2 tbsp wild Scot­tish bram­bles 1 small eat­ing ap­ple, prefer­ably a sharp-tast­ing, her­itage va­ri­ety, peeled, cored and grated 1 tbsp runny honey 50g wal­nuts, chopped small

Method

1. Put the oats in a jam jar with a good fit­ting lid. Pour the milk over the oats. Add a layer of grated ap­ple and half the bram­bles. Cover with a layer of half the yo­ghurt. Add the re­main­ing ap­ple and bram­bles on top. Fin­ish with re­main­ing yo­ghurt. 2. Scat­ter the chopped wal­nuts on the sur­face and dec­o­rate with a bram­ble and whole wal­nut half, if liked. Drizzle the honey over the sur­face. 3. Se­cure the lid on the jar and re­frig­er­ate overnight. The oats will be ready to eat in the morn­ing – be­fore or after you leave the house – and no cook­ing in­volved. Shirley Spear is owner of The Three Chimneys and The House Over-By on the Isle of Skye www.three­chim­neys.co.uk

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