Porridge has been a staple of the Scots and Gaelic islanders since medieval times when oats were made into a paste with water and eaten over several days, often with the addition of a pinch of salt.
Today, porridge is widely consumed in the west but unfortunately it’s often in the form of instant porridge or oatmeal made with over-processed, ground oats and loaded with sweeteners. The result is that much of the nutrition our ancestors enjoyed is lost.
Whole oats are rich in beta-glucans, a type of soluble fibre that has been linked to reducing bad cholesterol, lowering the risk of heart disease and boosting the body’s immune system. They are also rich in magnesium – a key to enzyme function which has been linked to reducing the chance of developing type 2 diabetes, improving sleep and even reducing depression.
However, oats are also high in phytic acid which (in humans) binds to minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc and limits their absorption and similarly inhibits important enzyme function needed for digestion. For detailed information and research on this topic, refer to the Weston Price Foundation.
Activation to the rescue
Fortunately, phytic acid in plant foods can be neutralised (to a large extent) by phytase, which is released by soaking in warm water with a little acid medium over a period of time. This process is commonly referred to as activation. As oats are low in phytase, the activation process can be helped along by the addition of some rye and by allowing the oats to soak for a little longer. I choose rye flakes as they’re inexpensive and readily available from health food stores.
I have enjoyed porridge for years – it’s a winter comfort food that warms me up and keeps me satiated all morning. Soaking the oats does not compromise the flavour at all so I have adopted the habit as part of an overall diet to improve digestive health.
This recipe can be adapted for all types of milk but I find that almond milk, “drinking” coconut milk and good old fashioned whole cream dairy milk work best. I’m not a fan of soy milk in this recipe as I find the flavour doesn’t stack up.
- 120g/4.25oz/1.5 cups of whole, organic rolled oats
- 20g/0.75oz/ around 1 heaped tablespoon of rye flakes
- 2 cups/500ml/17 fl oz of milk of your choice (I really like drinking coconut milk or activated almond milk – full cream dairy milk is also delicious)
- 1 cup/250ml/8.5 fl oz of filtered water
- 2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice or raw apple cider vinegar (you can also use whey or kefir but I prefer to use lemon juice or apple cider vinegar as they’re more readily available)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
Soak the oats, rye flakes and lemon juice/apple cider vinegar in around 2 cups of water for up to 24 hours (ideally at least 12 hours). There should be plenty of water to cover the oats, however the more water you use the more acid medium you will need to activate the oats.
Prior to cooking, drain the oats and rinse well, then add to a saucepan with the milk and filtered water. Cook over a low to medium heat, stirring occasionally. As the porridge starts to thicken, add the cinnamon. When the the mixture starts to bubble (this should take around 8 minutes), remove from the heat and allow to cool a little.
Serve topped with your favourite fruit and optionally a little extra cinnamon.
- You can also cook the porridge in the microwave – it will take around 6 minutes, however I prefer to cook on the stove as the microwave may denature the food.
- The porridge makes a great portable dish – divide into 2-3 glass dishes and top with berries. In my opinion it tastes great lukewarm as the flavour from the berries blends with the porridge.
- The porridge can be stored for up to 48 hours in the fridge
Serves 2 – 3