Oatmeal is a wonderful food as far as I’m concerned. Almost every morning, in autumn and winter, a bowl of steaming porridge with soft brown sugar and creamy milk launches me into the day,  Tim brings me a breakfast tray in bed - am I not spoiled rotten?   This glorious arrangement also means that Tim can have a peaceful hour in the kitchen all to himself.   Macroom oatmeal from the last stone-grinding mill is my absolute favourite, but I also love pinhead oatmeal.  
Last year we grew a field of oats, we had a tremendous yield and sent it along to Donal Creedon at Macroom to be milled.  It was such a delight to have our own freshly ground oatmeal for breakfast. Years ago this would have been a common occurrence.  
Ireland’s soft damp climate is ideally suited to the cultivation of oats so oatmeal became a staple food of the Irish from pre-historic times.  Its popularity lasted right up to the 17th Century when it was superseded by the newly introduced potato.
Most farmers would have grown some oats and taken it to the local mill to be ground, it was then stored to be used in bread, black puddings and oatcakes. Oats have been valued for their nutritive value for a long time, with higher levels of zinc and manganese than in other cereals.  Oat bran is an important source of soluble fibre which appears to reduce blood cholesterol.
Flahavans are now doing an organic oatmeal which is well worth seeking out.  It also makes delicious porridge but if you are tiring of that comforting cereal, why not make some muesli or a home-made granola, full of nuts and dried fruit and toasted grains.  There are lots of oatmeal biscuits including flapjacks and Anzacs.    A little fist full of oatflakes added to a crumble or brown soda bread will be nutty and delicious.   Many people enjoy herrings dipped in oatmeal or croquettes with a crispy oatmeal crust.


-  Scrunchy Muesli with Bananas and Yoghurt
Serves 10 approx.
(150ml) Irish honey
(150ml) walnut oil
 (150ml) water
6 ozs (170g) oat flakes
2 ozs (55g) sesame seeds
2 ozs (55g) bran flakes
2 ozs (55g) desiccated coconut
6 ozs (170g) roughly chopped pecan nuts
3 ozs (85g) flaked almonds
3 ozs (85g) raisins
sliced bananas and thick natural yoghurt
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4.
Put the walnut oil, water and honey into a saucepan, warm over a gentle heat. Meanwhile mix the oats, sesame seeds, bran flakes, desiccated coconut, flaked almonds and roughly chopped pecans in a bowl. Pour the warm honey and oil mixture over the grains and mix well. Spread out onto a roasting tin, bake in the preheated oven until the grains are nicely toasted 20 minutes approx.
Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Add the raisins and allow to cool.
Serve with yoghurt and sliced bananas or milk.

Oatmeal and Apple Muesli with Hazelnuts

4 ozs (110g) grated dessert apple (preferably Cox's Orange Pippin or Worcester Permain)
3 heaped tablesp. rolled oatmeal (porridge oats)
6 tablesp.  water
1 teasp. approx. pure Irish honey
2 tablesp.  sliced hazelnuts, preferably toasted
Serves 8
Soak the oatmeal in the water for 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, grate the apple on the coarse part of a grater, mix with the oatmeal. Sweeten to taste with honey, a scant teaspoon is usually  enough but it depends on how sweet the apples are.
Add hazelnuts and serve with cream and soft brown sugar.
Blackberry and Apple Muesli
A few blackberries are delicious added to Apple muesli in Autumn.
Apple and Raisin Squares
 8 ozs (225 g) self raising flour
8 ozs (225 g) oatmeal
1 level teaspoon  bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)
8 ozs (225 g)   butter
8 ozs (225 g) sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
2 eating apples
4 ozs (110 g) raisins
Mix the flour, oats and bicarbonate of soda together.  Melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup together over a gentle heat and add.  Line a tin with greaseproof paper.  Press half the mixture into a lightly greased 92 inch square tin.  Peel, core and chop the apple finely, mix with the raisins and sprinkle over, then spread the remaining oat mixture on top. 
Bake for 30 minutes 180C/350F/regulo 4, leave to cool for 5 minutes, cut into squares and transfer to a wire rack.

Kibbled Wheat and Oatmeal Scones

We sometimes make these scones into little mini loaves about 5 x 4 inches (10 - 12.5cm) and then cut them into little slices rather than splitting them in half.
680g(1¼ lbs) brown wholemeal flour (preferably stone-ground)  or 450g(1 lb) brown wholemeal flour and 50g (2 ozs) Oatmeal and 50g (2 ozs) Kibbled wheat
450g (1 lb) white flour
30-55g (1-2 ozs) butter
10g/2 rounded teasp. salt
10g/2 rounded teasp. bread soda  (bicarbonate of soda), sieved
1 free range egg
750-950ml (1¼-1½ pints) buttermilk or sour milk
30g (1 oz) Kibbled wheat, optional
30g (1 oz) oatmeal
Serves 16-20
First preheat the oven to 230C/450F/regulo 8.
Ina large wide bowl mix the dry ingredients well together, rub in the butter. Make a well in the centre, add the whisked egg, and most of the buttermilk or sour milk.
Working from the centre, mix with your hand and add more milk if necessary. The dough should be soft but not sticky. Turn out onto a floured board. WASH AND DRY YOUR HANDS. Tidy lightly, just enough to shape into a square. Flatten slightly to about 1½ inches (4cm) approx. Mix the kibbled wheat and oatmeal together on a plate.
Brush with a little beaten egg and buttermilk. Cut with a knife into square scones, dip each scone into the kibbled wheat and oatmeal topping.
Transfer to a baking sheet. The mixture will make 16-20 scones depending on the size. Bake in a hot oven 230C/450F/regulo 8 for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 200C/400F/regulo 6 for approx. another 5-10 minutes depending on sound, they should sound hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

Pinhead Oatmeal Porridge

Serves 4
52 ozs (155g) Macroom stoneground pinhead oatmeal
32 fl ozs (950ml) water
1 level teaspoon salt
Soak the oatmeal in 1 cup of cold water. Meanwhile bring 3 cups of water to the boil and add to the oatmeal. Put on a low heat and stir until the water comes to the boil.
Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the salt. Cover again and leave aside overnight, the oatmeal will absorb all the water. Reheat and serve with single cream or milk and soft brown sugar.

Tender Loving Care Biscuits

(known as TLC biscuits in our house)
Makes about 10 iced biscuits (depending on the size of the cutter used)
4 ozs (110g) butter
2 ozs (55g) castor sugar
1 dessertspoon  golden syrup
2 ozs (55g) flour
5 ozs (140g) oatmeal (porridge oats)
2 ozs (55g) dessicated coconut
A pinch of salt
A pinch of bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)
Coffee Filling
12 ozs (45g) butter
3 ozs (85g) icing sugar
Coffee essence - 1 teaspoon approx.
Coffee Icing
4 ozs (110g) icing sugar
1 tablespoon approx. boiling water
12 teaspoons approx. coffee essence
10 - 12 walnuts
Use a 12 inch (4cm)  cutter
Cream the butter and sugar and add in the golden syrup, gradually stir in the dry ingredients and mix well.
Roll out on to a floured board to about 3 inch (5mm) thickness - the mixture will be slightly sticky and will be a little difficult to handle.  Stamp out into rounds with a cutter
and bake in a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 until golden. They will take approx.12-15 minutes.
Remove to a wire rack and allow to become quite cold.  Meanwhile make the filling and icings.
Coffee Filling:
Cream the butter and add in the sieved icing sugar, beat until light and fluffy and then add the coffee essence. Spread a little on each biscuit and sandwich two biscuits together.
Coffee Icing:
Sieve the icing sugar, add the coffee essence and enough boiling water to mix to a spreading consistency, very little does, so be careful not to add too much.  Spread a little blob of icing on top of each biscuit and decorate with a walnut half.


About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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