Porridge Life Lessons: What I Learned In A Year Of Eating Oats

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Porridge. In January 2013 I ate porridge every morning for breakfast. It started as a holiday thing. I loved it so much that I decided to eat it for breakfast forever. In 2013 I estimate that, out of 365 days of the year, I didn’t eat porridge roughly 20 days. That’s a fairly good innings.

I learned some things along the way.

Today is World Porridge Day; an international appreciation of porridge that also raises funds for starving children in developing countries via the charity Mary's Meals. To mark the occasion, we're revisiting Mark's impassioned porridge post from 2014. Enjoy.


Lesson 1: Eating A Large Low GI Breakfast Is A Good Thing…

It seems obvious, but so many people seem to ignore this wisdom. They skip breakfast, they snack more. They eat a big massive, carby lunch…

Getting into the habit of eating a big bowl of porridge every morning is a powerful act. It says, ‘hell no I won’t snack on bullshit, I’ll be too full of delicious oats to even think about muffins and banana bread. This porridge is glued to my guts and it shall sustain me until lunchtime and beyond.’

Word for word, that is precisely what you will say. Maybe out loud.

I’m fairly conscious about what I put into my body. I partake in a type of exercise (climbing) where strength/weight ratio is paramount, so I tend to be very aware of portion control. But where breakfast (and porridge) is concerned I throw caution to the wind. Eating more porridge for breakfast has literally changed my entire set of eating habits for the better.

I eat massive amounts of porridge for breakfast, a decent amount of salad/chicken for lunch, and something light for dinner. I can only do this because porridge is so goddamn filling and it allows you to remain full for hours on end. This helps keep me lean. Eating more for breakfast makes it easier to avoid carbs in the evening, and will curtail your need to snack throughout the day.


Lesson 2: Porridge Is What You Make Of It. Literally.

The best thing about porridge is its flexibility. I tend to keep it simple and cook it with water. Typically I add two tablespoons of vanilla protein powder, chia seeds, honey and a splash of milk before serving – but the possibilities are almost endless. My wife puts just about every berry known to man into hers. Along with brown sugar, powdered milk and a metric buttload of walnuts. I have a female friend who stirs in some egg whites to up her protein intake. Seriously.

The point is: porridge can be catered for your own very specific tastes. I have this fruity idea that protein in the morning helps boost my metabolism so I add protein, but that’s just my own personal quirk. I like chia seeds because they’re rich in just about every goddamn thing you should be putting into your body, so I add a healthy dose of that just for kicks.

Your porridge, your rules.


Lesson 3: Porridge Can Be Adapted To Your Lifestyle

Porridge is flexible in terms of what you eat it with and how it tastes, but it’s also a malleable beast when it comes to wrapping its sploogy tendrils around your hectic lifestyle. Oats also allow for something a little more fancy if that suits you.

Quick Oats can be prepared wherever a Microwave exists. Steel Cut oats take roughly an hour to prepare properly, but are worth the wait for connoisseurs. Then there’s everything in between: traditional oats, oats soaked overnight. Do what you will. There are no rules where porridge is concerned. Let your imagination gang free.

But a quick note: never, ever bother with those infernal microwave specific sachets found in supermarkets. Refined to an inch of their nutritional life, they taste bad, they have stupid sugary flavours and they just plain suck. In addition you have absolutely no control of your own portion size. One sachet is too little, two tends to be too much. It’s expensive and completely pointless. Quick Oats can be cooked just as easily in a microwave and they are far, far superior both in terms of taste, cost and nutrition.

In short: you may think you are too busy for porridge. You aren’t.

During the week I tend to feast on Quick Oats early in the morning, but on the weekends I wake up early and make myself a nice, super indulgent pot of steel cut oats fried in butter and cooked slowly over an hour with water and milk.

Speaking of which…


Lesson 4: Everyone Needs Steel Cut Oats In Their Life

If you want to get serious about porridge, you need to start thinking about how you are going to integrate steel cut oats into your life.

Porridge of the steel cut variety: it’s like the Don Bradman of porridge. It’s the Anderson Silva of oats. It’s Messi, Pele, and Maradona all rolled into one, single groat, cut finely into one deliciously impenetrable foodstuff. This, ladies and gentlemen, is porridge at its finest.

It’s porridge with texture. It’s porridge at its most nutritious. It’s porridge for people who don’t like porridge. It’s porridge for people who love porridge.

But there is a catch. Steel cut oats are notoriously difficult to prepare. They take a far longer amount of time than your regular rolled oats. We’re talking at least 45 minutes here -- one cup of oats to four cups of water/milk/mixture of water and milk. It’s a helluva simmer but I believe it’s worth the hassle.

And here’s the best part: steel cut oats, unlike any other oat, can be kept in the fridge for up to a week. Steel cut oats have that ‘soup’ thing going: they actually taste better a couple of days after they’ve been cooked. It gets creamier the longer you leave it. Sometimes I’ll cook myself a massive batch and use it for breakfast throughout the week instead of Quick Oats. Yum.

Finding steel cut oats can be difficult. You can order them online, but I’ve also spotted them in the health/import section of some Coles supermarkets. Perhaps your most reliable source of steel is the GNC health stores dotted throughout Australia.


Lesson 5: Porridge Isn’t Just Functional, It’s Delicious

I started eating porridge mainly to curb my snacking. Then I ate it because it was helping me eat the right amount of food at the correct time. Eventually it worked well as a sweet delivery method for my morning protein shot!

But I try never to forget that porridge can be as damn delicious as any breakfast out there. Porridge is personal, you probably couldn't care less about how I eat it but, since I’ve gone on about it for the better part of a thousand words, I might as well share my favourite recipe.

Get yourself a saucepan. Take one cup of steel cut oats and lightly fry it in some unsalted butter for two or three minutes. Then add three cups of water. Bring to the boil and cover it with a lid. Let it simmer on a low heat for 45 minutes, taking the lid off to lightly stir every 15 minutes or so.

Then add a pinch of salt and stir in a final cup of full fat milk. Stir it all in together and let it simmer on a medium heat -- with the lid off this time – for about 15 minutes.

It’s the best porridge you’ll ever eat. Good luck everyone!


Let's talk breakfast! Any other porridge lovers here? Any (gasp) porridge haters? Let us know in the comments below, and let us know what you do with your oats in the morning!


Comments

    I'm a porridge hater. Vegemite toast is my daily, after a run of muesli (the Carman's brand), yoghurt and apple got a bit boring.

      I'm a big muesli fan. I'd say if I had to give up porridge, I'd go with muesli as a distant second!

        Honestly, I'd probably still be eating that for breakfast now but my shifts changed to start at 6am, which meant eating at 5am before I drove to work. For some reason, it didn't work too well at that hour of the day.

      I've tried vegemite in my porridge before :P It's somewhat savoury - might be good with some egg whites in it too :)

    I'm actually reading this for its informational value. I've been trying to ween myself off of the banana bread, delicious delicious banana bread that I keep eating erryday.

    I tend to eat once I actually get to work - I wonder if I can switch this so I eat before I leave, except I do like a cup of coffee with my food. Oh man life is hard.

      Dude, I try and eat my breakfast a tiny bit late at work as well. Helps me to delay lunch a little bit!

        How do you cook what you need to at the office?

          I either use Quick Oats in the microwave or a bring pre-prepared Steel Cut oats and just reheat them. So good.

            How do you feel about yogurt & museli? I am thinking I could alternate between those two and get myself off the bread!

              That's my breakfast every single day. Homemade yogurt. Now I'm seriously thinking about learning to cook porridge and alternate them.

          I "cook" (well prepare) cold oats and keep them in the freezer and take them out the night before.

          http://www.theyummylife.com/Refrigerator_Oatmeal

          The reccomend steel cut, but I just used rolled as I have trouble sourcing steel cut.

        This is an old but relevent discussion in today's new found 'wisdom' of paleo & gluten free....but really I'm here to add another way of devouring this breakfast mainstay.....has anyone else ever tried slow cooker version....it almost turns porridge into a cake!!
        Its amazing, divine, addictive... and you can add cream, yoghurt, fruit (try home stewed sundried apricots or prunes)
        Try it, don't leave the house though, as its timing is a little unpredictable till you get the timing and quantity sorted...but I am now going to hunt for those steel cut oats...to try that as well.
        Let me know what you think!

    Dear Sir

    Have you tried using a pressure cooker to cook your steel cut oats? You could have them ready in half an hour (or less).

    Yours Sincerely,
    CookingMama

    PS. I quite like the "Five Grain Porridge" - the other grains give a nice depth of flavour.

      That's a great idea. Never thought of that!

      Also -- have plans to use a slow cooker to make them overnight. YUM.

    I'm one of "those" who will indulge in the instant sachet porridge. Not because I don't like the quick oats, but mainly because the wife keeps buying them for the kids (and I get lazy).

    Mark, can you freeze the steel cut brews? It sounds like the perfect breakfast for my kayak fishing runs. These have me awake at 3AM, get dressed and apply sunscreen, on the water by 4 (30min drive + setup), then a 6 hour paddle to burn through. I usually take an assortment of muesli bars and trail mix to keep me going, but if I can have a quick porridge fix before I leave instead, all the better.

      I've never tried to freeze it, but I don't see why not.

      I did a quick search and came up with this. Seems legit!

      http://hgjphotography.com/freezing-steel-cut-oatmeal-a-quick-and-nutritious-breakfast/

        Looks like a plan to me. The oats should be a snap to find around here with all the health food shops the Sunshine Coast has to offer. I'll crank up the slowcooker and do a test batch to amuse myself on my holiday break. :)

    Ok Serrels, after spending the last year reading Porridge tweets, I give in. Tomorrow I will try porridge. First time in maybe 20 years. Here is hoping it lives up to all the hype you have given it.

    I've been trying oats, raspberries and yogurt for breakfast. At first it it was filling me up all day, now it's just a dreary mess I struggle to get my way through, with most of it ending up in the toilet before I eat it. Often not feeling as if I have enough energy, or a good enough start to the day. Where as something like eggs feels like it kicks my body into a better working position.

    A quick suggestion:

    Put all the ingredients for a portion in a microwave safe container - steel cut oats, rolled spelt etc. and the milk/water and put in the fridge. After a day or so soaking in the fridge it cooks in no time in the microwave. Just add any extras just before or after cooking it.

    On Sundays fill enough containers for the week.

    If it is a well fitting screw top container, it is also a doddle to take it to work and cook there.

    I really like porridge, but only in the winter... Don't you find it a bit too hot for breakfast in the summertime?

      you can go for a walk to let it cool..........just make sure you lock the door ;-)

    We're a family of seven, cooking a big pot of porridge is the only way to make sure everyone has time to eat.

    I actually find that the sachets are the perfect size for me. I just use the original ones (no "stupid sugar flavours") and stir in one serve of vanilla protein powder, half a banana, some chia seeds, and some LSA mix.

      Yeah this is cool. I was perhaps a little too hasty!

      The microwave sachets are so finely ground, though that some of them are almost the consistency of flour - it undoes a lot of the low GI benefit you get from whole oats.

    Bircher muesli is essentially cold porridge, and it's very tasty in summer - apple, berries, soaked oats and yoghurt and whatever else you feel like chucking in. Hmmm...might go make a batch right now for tomorrow morning!

    Freezing porridge? So decadent! Have you never heard of a porridge drawer? Just open the drawer, pour in the porridge and it'll keep for days or even weeks. ;-)

    What the difference in price between Steel Cut and Traditional Oats?
    I started eating oats last year and have been looking for a reason to get back into them.

      I got mine for $3.30 for 500g. May or may not be cheaper than regular oats. Haven't price checked.
      I got mine from Organic Wholefoods. If you are in Melbourne, you can go to their store in Brunswick or Fitzroy - http://www.wholefoods.com.au/index.html it looks like they deliver for online orders too.

    Nice article. I entirely agree that oats are tres good, but why the hating on carbs? Unless you're diabetic there's no need to exclude an essential macronutrient!

    The best porridge is definitely the uncle tobys multigrain oats. I usually add a banana, strawberries, blue and black berries, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and quinoa seeds. Tastes so good. Also try having oats with a banana with a bit of cinnamon.

    I like it how many times you said Steel Cut Oats without saying what that means, even while dedicating two paragraphs to describing them (rather awesomely)

    Porridge of the steel cut variety: it’s like the Don Bradman of porridge. It’s the Anderson Silva of oats. It’s Messi, Pele, and Maradona all rolled into one, single groat, cut finely into one deliciously impenetrable foodstuff. This, ladies and gentlemen, is porridge at its finest.

    It’s porridge with texture. It’s porridge at its most nutritious. It’s porridge for people who don’t like porridge. It’s porridge for people who love porridge.

    I had to google it in the end heh!

    Last edited 02/01/14 10:38 pm

    Yep we love our porridge in our family in the mornings (normally cooler months only). We only by organic oats (but have not yet found Organic and Steel Cut !!). Our method of preparation is one cup oats, 3 1/2 cups full fat non homogonised milk, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, teaspoon of cinnamon and a pinch of salt.

    Put them in the slow cooker the night before and have it come on for 5 hours on low - ready for a 7AM breakfast. The smell throughout the house is great and the kids love em - you will not believe how creamy they come out when cooked this way

    Craig

    I can't do carbs for breakfast, or I'm passed out by 10am. Oats may be low gi, but it's still 'breakfast cement' to me :(
    If I want a filling breakfast, it has to be healthy fats - free range bacon, eggs, avocado etc with some veges, with a side of black coffee.
    But that's only on weekends, during the week I fast until my before-lunch workout. So good.

    Damm you Serrels. I want porridge now.

    Out of curiousity, for the 20 days you didn't have porridge, what did you have and what caused those no porridge days?

      I'm gonna take a guess at going out for breakfast/his wife making him bacon and eggs when he's hungover, that sort of thing :P

    I love mine with homemade vanilla cinnamon almond milk. I can't go back to plain milk on my porridge anymore.

    I eat oats almost every day and a trick I learnt from a Scotsman is never cook it with milk only water, something to do with cooking the lactose. When cooked. Sry slowly add your milk while stirring hard. It will make creamy oats.

    Somehow this makes oats far creamier than oats cooked with milk.

    I love porridge!!! Cinnamon and raisins, banana, blueberries, dried fruit and nuts. Anything goes to add extra flavour. Honey or maple syrup to sweeten. I also like Overnight Oats. Oats and milk in a sealed container over night in the fridge. Topped with fresh blueberries eaten cold. Yummy and keeps for a few days too. Hugh FW did a delicious museli (granola) recipe. Good quality, no added sugar museli with a high fruit content. Grate 2 apples and mix with the museli. Top with orange juice and leave over night. Serve cold with natural yogurt and honey. Filling and delicious!!! Keep you going to lunch.

    I was fascinated by the concept of steel cut oats when I read this article the first time around. Now that I have some motivation to eat better and stop snacking so much, I returned to it for a refresh on "the goods" on oats so to speak. I did a quick google search and was lucky enough to find an organic/wholefoods store in Melb that stocks them at a reasonable price ~$3.50 for 500g. May or may not be cheaper than regular oats, but it's certainly cheaper than others I saw in my google search.

    If you are in Melbourne, you can go to the store in Brunswick or Fitzroy -http://www.wholefoods.com.au/index.html it looks like they deliver for online orders too.

    Hello i am from Argentina ( south america) and here it's not very common to have porridge for breakfast. I was tempted by it several times but i wanted to know if the taste of it is good or not, and another thing.... If i make a big batch of it can i keep in in a tupperware inside the refrigerator and heat it in the microwave whenever i feel the urge of having a porridge bowl?

      Is the taste good is something only you can answer after trying. Made with water it's more bland than with milk and with hazelnut milk (not actual hazelnut milk but like chocolate milk only with hazelnuts) it's fantastic. You can also add maple syrup (goes well if made with water), blueberry syrup (also better for the water based ones), honey (never was a fan really), protein powder (the taste can be fantastic if it's good powder... staple diet if you are lifting weights), dried fruit, bananas, cinnamon, .....

      I wouldn't call any disgusting, but the water based ones will taste a bit bland with no additives.

      If you buy the instant oats (the thinly cut ones), it literally takes 1 min in he microwave to cook them.

    Try incorporating a shot or two of espresso coffee in place of some of the milk or water — porridge with a punch! (Or "espressoats", as my trademark would be, if I were enterpreneurial enough for that sort of thing.)

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