All about the oats

Mil­lions now start the day with por­ridge oats – and some of the very best come from this county. If you’re not a con­vert yet, then you’re def­i­nitely go­ing against the grain

Cheshire Life - - Inside -

Recipes fea­tur­ing oats

Who would have thought a bowl of hot por­ridge could be so cool? This 21st cen­tury phe­nom­e­non has been caus­ing a stir from pop-up stalls to es­tab­lished High Street cof­fee giants.

It may once have been the favourite food of men in kilts and maiden aunts but now, it seems, we all want our oats. It’s won­der­ful news for Cheshire’s Morn­flake com­pany. For gen­er­a­tions, they’ve been send­ing smart folk off to work with the sort of healthy glow you nor­mally only get from a 15 tog ano­rak.

But oats aren’t just a win­ter warmer – Morn­flake is busy year-round be­cause of the ver­sa­til­ity of its prod­uct, ac­cord­ing to di­rec­tor James Lea.

His an­ces­tor Wil­liam Lea set the mill rolling in the vil­lage of Swet­ten­ham in 1675. That makes it the fourth old­est fam­ily busi­ness in Bri­tain and the old­est in Cheshire.

‘We moved to our Crewe mill when my grand­fa­ther, Philip Lea, was called back from the RAF in World War II due to his re­served oc­cu­pa­tion to mill ce­re­als,’ he says. ‘We were feed­ing the na­tion and we are ex­tremely proud to be from Cheshire.’

Ev­ery­thing they make is milled and crafted on site. ‘We also work closely with our farm­ers to help them grow the finest qual­ity oats, se­lect­ing the best seed to suit their land,’ he adds. ‘Provenance has be­come a huge food trend, but we’ve been at it for gen­er­a­tions.’

There is a lot more to Morn­flake than por­ridge. ‘That is re­ally just the start,’ said James. ‘There are well over 240 ways to mill an oat and the dif­fer­ent vari­a­tions can make many things be­yond por­ridge oats.’

Th­ese in­clude whole-rolled or jumbo oats that work a treat in flap­jacks and the Morn­flake range of muesli and gra­nola. Stone-ground oat­meal – a more tra­di­tional vari­a­tion – is of­ten used in bak­ing and it is very pop­u­lar in the Scot­tish Highlands. Coarse oat­meal has a rice-like tex­ture mak­ing it a de­li­cious al­ter­na­tive for risotto.

Nu­tri­tion­ists say oats are a fi­bre-rich whole­grain ce­real with the ben­e­fit of beta glu­cans which have been shown to help re­duce choles­terol, and it’s not just the Bri­tish who ap­pre­ci­ate them. Morn­flake sells to more than 60 coun­tries.

You might think to­day’s Mil­len­ni­als are too busy on so­cial me­dia to be both­ered with any­thing more dis­tract­ing than a sug­ary break­fast bar, but you’d be wrong. ‘Oats are very much on trend with many

‘Provenance has be­come a huge food trend, but we’ve been at it for gen­er­a­tions’

food­ies, and health-con­scious con­sumers use them as a de­li­cious can­vas for their cus­tomised break­fast bowls,’ says James. ‘You can now find por­ridge cafes and pop-ups across major cities with ev­ery­thing from sweet por­ridges to savoury congee dishes.’

So how does James en­joy them? ‘We tend to keep it re­ally sim­ple here. We mill our oats ex­tra fine to make a creamier tex­ture so it tastes great made with wa­ter and a pinch of salt.’

If you’re af­ter some­thing a little more ad­ven­tur­ous than the purists’ take on a bowl of oats then read on and dis­cover four in­no­va­tive ways to add a mod­ern twist to your most tra­di­tional of food sta­ples.

The Morn­flake Fam­ily (from left to right); Com­pany di­rec­tors, cousin John Bor­row­dale alongside broth­ers Edward Lea and James Lea

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