I’ve been on a mad quest to make a decent “instant” porridge/oatmeal. I eat my breakfast at work and since the weather turned gloomy, my taste buds have rejected the portable summer combo of yogurt/raw oats/fruit.
I wanted the cosy reassurance of a bowl of porridge – but I don’t have the option of slinking away on company time to make it in the office microwave.
Recently I tried a pot of “Instant Golden Syrup Flavour Porridge” from Marks & Spencer. You just add boiling water, stir, leave for a minute, stir again and eat.
Pros: Very handy because there’s a boiling water tap thingy close to my desk. Unlike the microwave, I didn’t have to disappear for ages to make it.
Cons: Alas, not that tasty. And there was a rather ropey ingredients list:
Oat Flakes (57%), Sugar, Dried Skimmed Milk, Dried Whey, Dried Glucose Syrup. Natural Flavouring: Golden Syrup.
I don’t mind a dod of sugar in my porridge but three different kinds was too much. Plus there’s the packaging waste and crazy cost – 99p per serve!
But I did like the “instant” boiling water method, so I’ve been attempting to rip it off. I usually eat jumbo old-fashioned oats, the kind that you lovingly stir on the stove, but they alone didn’t work well for the “instant” boiling water method. So I chucked in some quick cooking oats – not as refined as instant oats (see below) but they’re cut more finely so they kind of melt away into the hot water then thicken up.
For one hearty serve I’ve been using:
- 30 grams “quick” oats
- 10 or 20 grams old-fashioned oats
- 10 grams skimmed milk powder
(The ingredients label just says “dried skimmed milk”. I’m not one of those people who can eat porridge made with just water.)
I pack the above in a little bowl with a lid and take to work. When ready to eat, you just:
- Add some boiling water – I’ve not measured exactly, but basically enough water to cover the ingredients and it looks quite runny with the oats kind of floating about.
- Stir and put the lid on right away
- Leave for a minute to thicken up.
- Stir it again (it’s nice and creamy now) and chuck on any toppings (I like fruit and/or blob of nut butter).
- Eat quietly and discreetly in your vast open plan office.
I do realise that quick oats aren’t as nutritious as the old-fashioned kind (UPDATE: not necessarily so!), and skimmed milk powder sounds so daggy and 1970s but it’s the best way I’ve found to get a hot, filling breakfast at work without making a big deal out of eating breakfast at work.
UPDATE 2: Just realised I hadn’t really mentioned the taste! It wasn’t quite as good as porridge made on the stove, but was nice and creamy, not watery and gruelly like the instant packet I’d tried. I think it’s coz, as WHF says below, the oats dubbed “quick” are cut bigger than ones called “instant”.
UPDATE 3: Some people have asked why I don’t just make normal porridge at home instead of all this faffing around at work. Answer: I’m out of the house by 8AM and not hungry for breakfast until 9.30-10AM, so need a workplace solution.
By the way, if you’re confused as I am by all the kinds of oats, here’s a handy guide from World’s Healthiest Foods:
- Oat groats – unflattened kernels that are good for using as a breakfast cereal or for stuffing
- Steel-cut oats – featuring a dense and chewy texture, they are produced by running the grain through steel blades that thinly slices them.
- Old-fashioned oats (a.k.a. rolled oats) – have a flatter shape that is the result of their being steamed and then rolled.
- Quick-cooking oats – processed like old-fashioned oats, except they are cut finely before rolling
- Instant oatmeal – produced by partially cooking the grains and then rolling them very thin. Oftentimes, sugar, salt and other ingredients are added to make the finished product. (a la your Quaker packets)
- Oat bran – the outer layer of the grain that resides under the hull. While oat bran is found in rolled oats and steel-cut oats, it may also be purchased as a separate product that can be added to recipes or cooked to make a hot cereal.
- Oat flour – used in baking, it is oftentimes combined with wheat or other gluten-containing flours when making leavened bread.
So what’s your favourite winter breakfast? All this oat talk makes me fancy porridge for dinner tonight.
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