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New Adventures in Oats

As I wended my windy wallowing way around the (w)internet, nibbling blogs and sampling, uh, other blogs, I came across Mostly Eating. It’s an incredibly pretty food blog and I’m a sucker for a pretty blog, but then I spotted a post about breakfasts. Well, by now you should know how I feel about breakfasts (hint: noisily pro), so I had to read that and that lead me to the Mostly Eating breakfast/brunch recipes archive. From there, I probably could’ve walked away, but then…bugger me: there’s a whole new way of eating oats I haven’t tried. Skirlie.

Now I have a great big blog crush on Mostly Eating and a big fat debt of gratitude for introducing me to skirlie. If my first encounter with skirlie was through Wikipedia, I’d probably never have tried it. The description “used as a stuffing for a mock-sausage, the mealie pudding, or used as a stuffing for chicken (most commonly) or other fowl” really doesn’t turn the crank, yanno? Sounds a bit like post-war/Depression-era/escaped-convict-hiding-in-the-moors cooking: “Add a finely-chopped potato peel, some carrot tops, a handful of fine grit and four old socks and simmer until you’re too hungry to care.” And what the hell is a mealie pudding anyway?

But if someone had said “Have you heard of skirlie? It’s toasted oats with spring onions and baby spinach!” I would have been all “why the fuck aren’t we eating that RIGHT NOW?” So I made some for breakfast today and damn, I’m excited.

Here’s the bare bones recipe: Take some onions, finely chopped, and fry them in a bit of oil or butter; add your oats and toast them until they start to look, uh, toasty; add some herbs and spices; throw in a bit of hot water to help things along; add your flavourings and sauté everything until it’s ready.

I am now a skirlie girlie

Now, here’s how to do what I did:

  1. Lightly fry some finely chopped shallots in olive oil. As they start to brown, but before they get too crispy, add a ¼ cup of uncooked oats.
  2. While the oats are toasting, finely shred some basil and oregano; add these as the oats begin to brown, give it a quick stir, and then splash in some hot water. This will help the oats soften and (I think) help disperse the flavour of herbs and onions through the oats. Add a generous grind of salt and black pepper.
  3. Finely shred a big handful of baby spinach. Just as the oats are getting towards cooked — about five minutes after that splash of water went in — add the spinach and, if necessary, a small splash of hot water.
  4. Once the baby spinach has begun to wilt, but before it gets dark and sad, serve! Add another grind or two of salt and black pepper as needed.

Oooh baby, buff my fork. I added a couple of boiled eggs. You don’t have to, I’m just saying I did.

gomf gomf gomf

Already planning variations for future skirlie breakfasts: Mostly Eating mentions orange zest, lemon thyme and leek and that’s something I could seriously get behind. Zucchini, lemon and coriander? Haloumi, rocket and chilli? Hmm. Asparagus? Mushrooms? HMMMMM! I like where this is going. Goddamn, oats are the bomb. At first they’re all cuddly as porridge: then they’re all outdoorsy and “have oats: will travel” as ANZAC biscuits or muesli bars; then you turn around and BAM! Suddenly they’re all wilted baby spinach and spices. Daring. Audacious. Grown up oats. But then, if you get a bit too grownup and earn yourself a hangover…they’re all “aww, come and have some porridge, baby.” Oats understand.  Get some.

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