It feels like just forever since I sat here in front of the computer sharing a recipe with all of you. It was really only less than three weeks ago.
But in the time in between, we had a few adventures. We got lost (in the cerebral sense) exploring the backroads of Scotland; we explored the new ‘old meets new’ city of Copenhagen; we popped in to re-live some memories in Munich, and we got a small taste of how much London has to offer. (I knew this, Jim is just discovering London for the first time!)
I won’t bore you with the details of every moment of every day of our trip. What I will try and do, is incorporate some of those details in upcoming posts and recipes that are inspired by our time away.
For instance: porridge. Jim loves oatmeal. So do I. But after a hot summer, neither of us was eating it very often. Sure, every once in a while I would make up a batch of my Birchermuesli, which is basically the forerunner to the popular overnight oats of today. Since it is prepared in the fridge while we sleep, it is a great dish to rely on for when you really don’t want to turn the stove on. Perfect for summer.
The first leg of our trip was a week in Scotland. We flew in to Glasgow, and picked up our car. This would be Jim’s first time driving on the ‘other’ side of the road. I think I had more confidence in him than he first did! But in no time at all, he was an expert at it. The most challenging part was the ever present turning circle (roundabout). But together, counting off the lanes we were to pass (according to our Scottish accented GPS voice) we navigated those quite well.
And my oh my, the scenery we saw! Along with castles like Eilean Donan Castle and Inveraray Castle, we had the rolling hills, the countless sheep and cows in the pastures that came right up to the shoulders of the very narrow roads (many only allowing one car at a time, even though they were two way roads) the ferns and heather, and the most unique shade of green I had ever come across. The sky was so moody- constantly changing from ominous clouds to bright beams of sunlight breaking through. We stayed in Oban, and on the isle of Skye, both of which had rugged coastlines and fishing villages that seemed to be lost in time. We also drove across the countryside to Inverness and finally Edinburgh. But through it all, the charming old villages filled with relaxed, witty inhabitants were so enchanting. Jim’s favourite drive was doing the Skyfall road in Glen Etive (the James Bond movie location) It was a moody day, and we truly felt as we drove that lonely road that we would at any moment find that old estate with the pillar with the stag at the entrance.
We attempted (ever so briefly) the climb up Ben Nevis (the tallest peak in Scotland) It ended up being a much more serious undertaking than either of us imagined, and we were duly put in our place. As well, there was a blizzard happening at the top of the four plus hour hike to the peak, and we just weren’t equipped for that (yes, that is the excuse we are using for stopping part way up, and we are sticking to it!!) We also took on a hike up Storr, on Skye. The views were spectacular, even if we again fell short of the top (never realized we would need serious hiking boots for this trip!) But we are proud of the attempt in the wind and rain. And we earned our drams of single malt scotch every evening!
Everywhere we stayed, we were offered the most amazing breakfasts to begin our days. A ‘Full Scottish Breakfast’ of eggs, bacon, beans, mushrooms, sausage and toast was an indulgence that we really didn’t feel the need to partake of. Rather, Jim became totally enamoured with the Porridge on the menus. Add some milk, honey and fruit, and he was a happy camper. I did try smoked haddock and kedgeree fish cakes, smoked haddock and scrambled eggs, and scrambled eggs with smoked salmon (do you see a trend?!) at the various stops throughout Scotland. But I also ate the porridge with prunes (I adore prunes- especially when stewed in orange juice and cinnamon). It was just such a cozy meal and great way to start the day.
When we were in Copenhagen, our first morning there meant a walk to find Grød, the first ever porridge bar in the world. Yes, an entire cafe and menu dedicated to porridge or oatmeal!! We both had cloudberry compote, cocoa nibs and nuts on our porridge. And because it is Copenhagen, the setting for this wonderful breakfast was just dripping in hygge.
Hygge is a danish word that can basically be translated as ‘a cozy way to make gathering together appealing’. So even though it was breakfast, there were candles flickering on each table. There were blankets and furs draped over each chair or couch, and the music playing was not deafening or invasive. It was meant to make people feel welcome, to stay and visit for a while. The Danes take this attitude very seriously. It shows up in almost everything they do. Taking time for tea, hot chocolate, getting cozy, stopping and taking in all the sights and sounds of nature- this permeates their entire culture and way of thinking. I left Copenhagen totally inspired to see how I could make our own little world a little more cozy.
And I also knew that, once we returned to Canada, Jim would want to get into the routine of oatmeal again. I think it is his way of feeling that he is starting the day off on a healthy note, and can take on the world, and anything else that comes his way.
So I started thinking about a recipe from the Buvette cookbook by Jody Williams. It really is one of my favourite cookbooks. Totally influenced by casual French and Italian dining, her recipes are approachable and yet full of depth. And if you are ever visiting New York City, you can eat at Buvette in the East Village, and taste her handiwork first hand.
She has a recipe for a baked oatmeal that she then brûlées. I love it. I decided to take it and play with the ingredients a touch. So out came the Autumn spices, and dried currants. I like their flavour and texture even better than raisins. And they work so well with the spices I would use. And when serving this wonderful toasty breakfast or brunch meal, I felt that maple syrup infused skyr would make a fabulous topping.
A great aspect of this recipe is that the oatmeal gets toasted in the oven first. The large flakes turn a lovely golden brown and each one becomes a wonderful nutty flavoured addition to the final baked porridge. All sorts of seeds (sunflower, hemp, flax, pumpkin) as well as the currants are added to the oatmeal and water in a baking dish or pie plate, and they are all baked together in the oven, until the excess water is evaporated or soaked in, and the top has a lovely firm finish. At this point, you can either brûlée the entire oatmeal dish and serve, or you can eat from it all week. So this is like the first part of the recipe. And if it is only you at home, why not take some of the baked oatmeal and spoon it into a small baking dish, smooth out the top, and sprinkle it with sugar and brûlée this instead? You can do it by placing the dish under the oven broiler till the sugar has melted and has started to bubble away, or you can use a small kitchen torch. (come on, it doesn’t get used nearly enough, so here is a great way to make sure that little flame thrower earns it’s keep)
There is no sugar in the baked oatmeal portion of the recipe. Since you will be sugaring the top afterwards. And really, it doesn’t need it. I add cinnamon, cloves and allspice, and these, along with the currants add a slight warm sweetness to the dish. And since I suggest serving it with maple syrup and skyr, you will get some sweetness there as well. But if you only want to make the baked oatmeal portion of the recipe, feel free to add 1/4 cup of sugar or so to the oatmeal and seeds with the spices.
Baking off the entire recipe gives you about 6 portions. Or 4 totally filling ones. Cover it and keep it in the fridge to work on all week, if it is just two of you. Or cut the recipe in half and you won’t have to worry about oatmeal for too many days in a row! It does also make a great midnight snack with a dollop of vanilla ice cream, just saying.
This is the perfect Winter/cool weather version of oatmeal. And I hope you like it as much as we do!
Baked Seeds and Dried Currant Oatmeal Brûlée
Oatmeal is first toasted in the oven, which gives it a fabulous nuttiness. Then after a quick stove top soak in water, seeds and dried currants are added, and everything is put into a baking dish and baked till perfectly cooked through. Sugar is added to create a crème brûlée top. Just add maple syrup infused skyr or yogurt, and you have a fabulous cold weather brunch!
- 2 cups jumbo rolled oats
- 4 cups water
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/4 cup flaxseeds
- 1/4 cup hemp seeds
- 1/4 cup dried black currants
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp ground allspice
- 1/4-1/2 cup granulated sugar
- maple syrup for serving
- plain skyr or greek yogurt for serving
Preheat the oven to 425F
Place the oats on a baking sheet and bake, stirring occasionally till they smell toasty and are golden brown. About 10 minutes. Keep the oven on.
Meanwhile bring the water to a boil. Add the toasted oatmeal and the salt. Stir and drop the heat to a simmer until the oats are softened and thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in all the seeds, the currants, and the spices.
Transfer the mixture to a wide baking dish.
Place the dish on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until all the excess water has evaporated and the top is lightly browned and just firm to the touch. This should take about 10-15 minutes. Don't let it totally dry out though.
Remove the baking sheet and oatmeal from the oven. Turn the oven to broil.
Evenly sprinkle the sugar over the top of the oatmeal, using at least 1/4 cup of sugar. You can use up to 1/2 if you want it especially sweet and crunchy.
Place the dish on a rack set 4-6 inches under the broiler. Watch, until the sugar has melted and caramelized. It should be nearly but not entirely burned. Carefully removed and serve.
To serve: combine 3/4-1 cup skyr or Greek yogurt and 3 tbsp of maple syrup and dollop some on each serving.
You can bake off the oatmeal ahead of time. Then simply warm it in a 400F oven for about 15 minutes before brûlée-ing the top with the sugar.
Or you can bake the oatmeal and just serve it with the yogurt.
Or you can take individual servings and place them in smaller baking dishes and warm as described above and then brûlée it.
I say this recipe feeds 6. It could feed 4 very hungry people. But if you are serving bacon, toast etc as well, this should feed 6 comfortably.