“That’ll keep you regular,” chuckled the delivery man.
He had just handed me a hamper filled to the brim with oaty products from Flahavan’s, and, as I surveyed the contents, I had to agree that this little lot would probably keep me in good working order for some time to come.
The occasion that had warranted such a generous oaten influx was Flahavan’s annual Porridge Week, which heralds the onset of those falling temperatures that induce us to both stay under the covers and contemplate porridge when we arise.
And while my winter breakfast needs were now clearly taken care of, I knew that, for variety’s sake, I would have to use some of my oaty spoils for non porridge purposes. With that in mind, I perused the little recipe booklet written by Mary Flahavan that had come with the delivery.
And there it was, amongst the flapjacks, crumbles, bakes and pies, nothing less than oatmeal in a soup. Now, while it may not be tremendously fashionable to put oatmeal in a soup these days, it was quite the thing in ancient Ireland. In his book, The Country Cooking of Ireland, Colman Andrews provides a recipe for Brotchán Foltchep (or “the king’s soup”), a leek and oatmeal affair that was apparently a favourite of St. Columkille back in the 6th century. I thought that the least I could do was take that old soup idea and give it a 21st century spin. I reached for some coconut milk and a new soup was born.
Oatmeal, Leek and Coconut Soup
In Scotland, where they are also fond of their oats, this would be called a ‘brose’, which is a term for anything thickened with oatmeal. The addition of coconut milk, however, sends this soup on a journey far to the east of both Scotland and Ireland. Having previously used coconut milk in porridge, however, I knew how nicely it could work with oats. The pinhead oatmeal, in particular, both thickens and gives a nice bite. It’s Asian flavour meets Irish texture.
- 3 tblsp pinhead oatmeal (i.e. steel-cut oats)
- 25g almonds
- 1 tblsp vegetable oil
- 1 medium-sized leek, white and light green parts finely sliced (about 75g sliced leek)
- 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tblsp finely chopped root ginger
- 1 x 400ml tin coconut milk
- 1 tblsp lime juice
- 0.5 tsp salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- approx. 100g broccoli florets, sliced
- 1-2 tblsp freshly chopped coriander
You’ll also need:
- A couple of baking trays for toasting the oats and the almonds.
- Preheat your oven to 180C
- Spread the oats and the almonds on two separate baking trays and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes or until both the oats and the flesh of the almonds have browned lightly. Set aside to cool and crush or finely chop the almonds.
- Place a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the vegetable oil and, when hot, add the leeks. Stir and fry for about 3-4 minutes, until the leeks start to soften.
- Add the garlic and ginger and stir and fry for another minute or so.
- Add the toasted oatmeal, stir briefly, then add the coconut milk, lime juice, salt, a few twists of black pepper and about 250ml water. Bring to the boil then cover, lower the heat and simmer for about 20-25 minutes or until the oats have softened.
- Add the sliced broccoli and simmer for 7 to 10 minutes more or until the broccoli is cooked to your liking (I prefer it to retain a little bit of bite). Add more lime juice, salt and/or black pepper to your taste and if the soup is thicker than you’d like, thin with additional hot water.
- Serve sprinkled generously with crushed toasted almonds and chopped coriander.
- I think you could certainly use french beans in this soup either in place or, or in addition to, the broccoli (and added at the same time).
- Makes 2 hearty servings of soup