In January I stopped eating fresh vegetables, and my roommate quit his granola habit. We just didn’t feel like it anymore. We wanted hot food, soft in texture, comforting and easy to eat. Dinnertime conversations went like this:
“There are tomatoes and onions in the spaghetti sauce—we don’t need a salad, right?”
“Absolutely. No salad necessary.”
(And in the morning):
“No thanks. Buttered toast. Marmalade.”
(Thus were two excellent sources of dietary fibre eliminated from our repertoires.)
But it’s March, now, and the light is coming back, and excitement for the spring sparkles in the air like snow diamonds. Good habits, such as eating fibre, are returning with the sun. Plus, there is a new local product on the shelves that speaks to my roommate’s Scottish heart and inspires me to experiment—Hinterland Flour Mill’s steel-cut oats.
Steel-cut oats are how the Scottish (and the Irish) eat porridge. In the dead of winter, my roommate occasionally cooked up a batch, using Bob’s Red Mill brand, and very good they were, too, fulfilling the winter requisites for warmth and comfort. However, there are so many more ways to use this lovely grain than simply cooked cereal—delicious ways that have the added benefit of bringing fibre back into our diets.
I started with bread. Typically, we make a couple of sourdough loaves, once every two weeks, blending 200 grams of barley flour from Hinterland into our favourite recipe. Not everyone has the time or patience for sourdough baking, though, so I set out to find a good recipe using active dry yeast, steel-cut oats and barley flour, while gathering tips and ideas from favourite online sources and that great old standby, Joy of Cooking.
I mixed, matched and experimented and came up with a version that I think really works, rich and flavourful with a dense crumb and the soft, oily crunch of walnuts. Birch syrup adds umami and sweetness, giving this bread versatility—it can be paired with marmalade or nut butters, savoury flavours like pȃté or smoked cheese, and it makes excellent toast.
Right. The bread’s sorted, now, onto salads. Maybe barely cooked steel-cut oats, feta cheese, broccoli, purple onion and olives? Spring has arrived; bring on the fibre!
Fibre, Fibre, Fibre!
- 1 cup steel-cut oats (try Hinterland Flour Mill or Bob’s Red Mill)
- 1/4 cup birch syrup
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cups boiling water
- 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 1/2 cups Hinterland Flour Mill barley flour
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- Combine oats, birch syrup, butter and salt in a large bowl. Pour boiling water over top, stir and let sit until the mixture cools to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
- Sprinkle yeast over 1/4 cup warm water. When the yeast has fully dissolved, usually about 5 minutes, stir yeast and water into the cooled oat mixture.
- Stir in barley flour and walnuts. When thoroughly combined, stir in all-purpose flour until you have a stiff but still sticky dough (you might not need all the flour). Dust a counter with flour, transfer dough to the counter and knead for 7 to 10 minutes, using more flour, as necessary, to keep dough from sticking.
- Form dough into a round, coat with 1 tsp of olive oil and transfer to a clean bowl. Cover bowl with a tea towel and allow dough to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Cut dough in half with a bench scraper or a sharp knife. Dust the counter and a rolling pin lightly with flour. Working with one piece at a time, roll dough into a rectangle, 8-inches wide and 12-inches long. Starting from the short side, roll the dough tightly into a log and pinch the ends and seam shut. Place seam-side down in a parchment-paper-lined loaf pan and repeat with the other half of the dough.
- Cover loaf pans with a tea towel and allow loaves to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375℉. Place loaves on the middle rack and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until tops are golden brown and a tester inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean.
- Remove the loaves from the pans and cool on a rack, to room temperature, before slicing.