The Daily Spud

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Oat Cuisine

Sacks o' Flahavans Oats

Sacks o' Flahavans

Mary Flahavan reports that her mother, at 92 years of age, is both hale and hearty and eats porridge twice a day. I suspect very much that these facts are related – good stuff, is porridge.

Oats, the stuff of porridge

Oats, the stuff of porridge

Porridge is an ancient food and was the staple in Ireland until usurped by none other than the potato in the the late sixteenth century (sorry ’bout that oats, but a spud’s gotta do what a spud’s gotta do). Even after the über tuber made its Irish debut, oats cooked in the form of porridge or stirabout were still frequently eaten, becoming more common as a breakfast dish in the 19th and 20th centuries.

And where there were oats, there were oat millers. The involvement of the Flahavan’s family in milling stretches back over 6 long-lived generations. In this, the era of the heavily manufactured breakfast cereal, it’s refreshing to see that their enduring Progress Oatlets product has no “added this” or “reduced that” or “fortified the other”, but, rather, a shockingly spare ingredient list of one: wholegrain rolled oats.

That the Flahavans are still milling their oatlets at a site in Kilmacthomas, Co. Waterford, whereon mills have stood for centuries, and use oats that have been grown within a 60 mile radius of the mill, is heartening in a country where “The Mill” is far more likely to refer to a building that has been converted into apartments, rather than a millhouse that serves its original intended purpose.

View from the roof of the Flahavan's mill

View from the roof of the Flahavan's mill. And, yes, I admit that I would quite fancy an apartment that had this view.

All of this and more I learned at first hand last week, when I had the pleasure of being brought to both see the mill and meet with John and Mary Flahavan, the current generation of owners.

The Flahavans and scenes from their mill

The Flahavans and scenes from their mill

Theirs may be a centuries-old business, but one which must adapt constantly to the demands of changing markets. In the 1930’s, Flahavan’s Progress Oatlets were so named because the new-fangled rolling process was deemed to be progress over traditional, steel-cut oats, drastically reducing the time it would take to make a bowl of porridgey goodness.

These days, progress for the Flahavan’s means developing the organic side of things. 15% of their business currently, the demand for their organic oats far outstrips the supply grown in Ireland but, year on year, they are working with farmers to make more organic oats happen here. Progress also means getting customers in on the porridge-making act, with the company announcing their first All-Ireland Porridge Making Challenge this week. You can read more about it below. It may be well worth your while.

Who says there’s no money in porridge?

The porridge challenge is a recipe competition for folks here in Ireland, with Flahavan’s seeking both the best porridge recipe and the best recipe using any of their oats range. First prize in each category lands the winner a very tasty €1,500, with runners-up benefitting to the tune of €500. Now that’ll surely keep you in porridge oats for some time to come.

Oat & Apple Breakfast Muffins

I do like my porridge for breakfast, but I’m also partial to the odd muffin in the a.m. Armed, as I was, after my trip to the mill, with lots of porridge oats and also in possession of the last few apples from the Mammy, I came up with these guys, which have lots of apple plus oats on the double.

I used both Flahavan’s organic porridge oats and some of their pinhead oatmeal (which those in the US might know as steel-cut oats) for some added texture. The muffins are not especially sweet (nor are they meant to be – it’s breakfast, remember?) and are lightly spiced, which you can increase or change as you wish – for my part, I was inspired by Gastroanthropologist to use something other than cinnamon for a change.

They’re put together using the muffin mixing method – for more info on how that works, I highly recommend you check out what both Jenni and Joe Pastry have to say on the subject.

Oat and Apple Muffins

You’ll need:
  • 75g butter
  • 4 tblsp golden syrup
  • 1 large cooking apple, such as Bramley – you’ll need approx. 200g of apple after peeling and coring
  • 200g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 0.5 tsp ground ginger
  • 0.5 tsp allspice
  • 100g rolled oats
  • 50g pinhead oatmeal
  • 1 large egg
  • 5 tblsp sour cream
You’ll also need:
  • 1 x 12 piece deep muffin tray
The Steps:
  • Preheat your oven to 200C and grease your muffin tray well.
  • In a small heavy saucepan, melt the butter over a low heat. Remove from the heat once melted, stir in the golden syrup and leave to cool.
  • Peel, core and grate the apple – you’ll need about 200g grated apple.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, ground ginger and allspice together well. Stir in the rolled oats and pinhead oatmeal.
  • In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg.
  • Stir the sour cream and beaten egg into the cooled butter and golden syrup mixture until well combined.
  • Now, dump the sour creamy buttery mixture into the flour and oats and fold very gently with a metal spoon or spatula until barely combined.
  • Add the grated apple and again fold very gently until just incorporated.
  • Distribute the mixture among your muffin tins. (At this point, Jenni recommends that you let the muffins sit for 15-20 minutes to allow the flour to fully hydrate – I always seem to be too impatient for fresh muffins to include that step). Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted comes out fairly clean – this took around 18 minutes for me.
  • Now, after all of that, you can make your morning tea or coffee and enjoy.
The Variations:
  • The spicing here is reasonably subtle – increase the ginger to 1 tsp for something more overtly gingery, or use cinnamon or nutmeg instead if you like.
The Results:
  • Makes about 12 muffins

21 Comments

  1. Hello, breakfast muffins! They sound lovely, and apple and oatmeal is a great combo:)

    I’ve never used the Lyle’s before. I should; I can get it at my grocery store. Maybe it’s the fear of the unknown…

    From now on, I’m calling steel-cut oats pinhead oats. It’s a way better name! Here’s what Americans (yes, I’m speaking for All of Us) think of when they hear “Pinhead:”

    http://patdollard.com/wp-content/uploads/pinhead.jpg Just so you know:)

  2. Those are perfect little breakfast treats! Would love them with my morning coffee right now!

  3. I’m giving you a sparkly tiara for that very clever title, Spud, love it! I also love oats in any form, though my favorite is the pinhead. What a fascinating post and I love the muffin recipe as well. Ginger is so delicious in baked goods!

  4. Mmm…I love me some oats. Sadly, I don’t get it into my diet enough. It’s mostly be spuds.

  5. Now I wonder if I might proxy for a famous oat-based baker I know…

  6. eat them twice a day also

    occasionally eat only oats on a day if training

  7. I so love full oats, you know that by now!!

    These lovely breakfast muffins look so healthy & I would like to savour at least 2 even that it is bedtime now!

  8. Jenni: Well now, my spam filter was pretty determined to swallow all of your pinhead comments – who knew it could be so easily offended! Luckily I was able to come to the rescue and share your pinhead picture with the world (or the readers of this blog at any rate) – it’s just about the furthest thing from oatmeal I can think of :D (oh and, P.S., you should try Lyles – I think you’d like it lots)

    Natasha: I now have a stash in my freezer so I’m set for morning coffee for the next little while :)

    Diva: why thank you – I shall wear my sparkly tiara with pride!

    jenn: well, nothing wrong with having a good deal of spuds in your diet either :D

    Tim: oh I think you should…

    Billy: welcome and good for you on your oaty diet – I’m not sure I’d have porridge twice a day myself but porridge in the morning plus oats in some other guise later in the day I could certainly do

    Sophie: well, even though they’re called breakfast muffins, there’s nothing to stop you having them at the other end of the day too!

  9. For a shot at € 1500, I’ll change my name to Tangled Oats (or maybe Pinhead Noodle) and take on the porridge challenge! I love porridge and porridge-y stuff: oat, rice, cream o’ wheat . . . 8-D

    These breakfast muffins look delicious and would almost give your farls a run for the money at breakfast. Of course, as you suggested to Sophie, there’s no reason I can’t have one to start the day and the other to end it on a tasty note!

  10. What an interesting post and history lesson. Much enjoyed. Thanks.

  11. First time commentor, long time reader. I love the muffins and thank you for the great history on porridge.

  12. Love the name of your blog…and loving the idea that we’re gonna meet up at the FBC. WOOT!! How nice that you coould visit such a fab place. Love the recipe for the muffin…yum!

  13. Daily Spud

    Friday, November 13, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    Tangled Oaty Noodle: I think that a lot of people could develop porridge love with €1500 at stake! And no reason why breakfast muffins can’t share the stage with potato farls – we all need a little sweet/savoury balance in our lives :)

    Velva: why thanks for dropping in and taking the time to read – glad you enjoyed it!

    sarah: thanks for popping up to say hi, much appreciated

    deeba: yay – so looking forward to the FBC, will be great to meet in person!

  14. I love stories like this one. How cool to find a family run business that has lasted through generations, and nothing could be more fitting that oats. Gotta love that porridge.

  15. What fun. I love steel cut porridge for breakfast – the texture and substance makes me know I am starting my day off right. Of course with those yummy looking muffins, I’d be happy to double my intake.

    What a beautiful spot for the factory. It looks like a Roman bridge. I’d be happy to have that as a view out of my window too!

    Funny, I was about to add that it would be great to marry tatos with oats, and you had beaten me to it! Great story on the oats.

  16. Having always associated Waterford with crystal, now oats will come to mind. What a wonderful place! I’d love to see it in person. And what a great contest! Your muffins are sure to be in the running. The ginger and allspice flavors sound so great with the apples.

  17. Hi,
    I love to take porridge in my breakfast.As Oats have a high content of complex carbohydrates and soluble fibre so they release energy slowly. A bowl of porridge for breakfast should provide the body with all the energy the body needs until lunch time.

  18. I’m regular on oats,the muffins look super good :D

  19. Daily Spud

    Monday, November 16, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    Kristen: it was very cool all ’round and good for them that porridge seems to be enjoying a real resurgence in popularity these days

    OysterCulture: there is definitely something very virtuous about starting the day with oats; and as for potatoes and oats, if you started the day with oaty potato cakes, why then there would be no stopping you :D

    Lori: it was a real treat to get to see the mill and it’s in such a lovely location too; meanwhile, I’ll have to see what else I can come up with for the competition :)

    game: indeed, porridge is all of those things!

    yasmeen: welcome & thanks – the muffins are pretty good, even if I do say so myself :)

  20. I visited an historic mill in Nickelsville VA when I was there, and they run it once a year, have a festival, selling the corn that is milled. My friend just told me she got me a bag they sell in old style bags, and I am so excited. I cannot imagine living near them and they run more often as part of your life…cool post! Just think when I hit Ireland again, you might have to come rescue me from the food people, since I will be dumpster diving remember, for free souvies :)
    or ignoring my flight home and moving there, I can fake the accent well…

  21. Getting goods freshly milled or otherwise close to source is always so satisfying! And, Chef E, if you should make it over here, I will be around to be a witness/rescuer/whatever, never fear!

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