Steel cut oats, 3 ways

brown butter chocolate oatmeal

brown butter chocolate oatmeal

Winter is still in full force in Yorkshire, which is totally not what I signed up for when I moved here from Canada. That means oatmeal, made from steel cut oats, continues to be my daily choice for breakfast – it’s not quite time for the refreshing chill of frozen berry smoothies yet.

I switched to steel cut oats years ago. Less processing makes for a lower glycemic index, which means my breakfast truly lasts until lunchtime. They take longer to cook than instant rolled oats, but make 4 servings at a time – just add a splash of water to a portion of the fridge-cold cooked oatmeal, and nuke in the microwave on high for about 2 minutes. They’re called pinhead oats in the UK, which my phone hilariously auto-corrects to ‘pinheaded oafs’.

The first recipe is the one I use the most often:

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup steel cut oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. As you add the oats, reduce the temperature to low and stir constantly at first, making sure the oats don’t boil over. Add salt after about 5 minutes of cooking. Simmer on low for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the oatmeal is thick and creamy.

Add your choice of toppings – I usually sprinkle on cinnamon, maple syrup, toasted pecans, banana slices and milk.

But as delicious as this is, I’ve got two other recipes up my sleeve:

If it’s autumn and you’re jumping on the Pumpkin Spice bandwagon, give The Kitchn’s Baked Pumpkin Steel Cut Oatmeal a go. They’ve updated the recipe for slow cookers as well. Flavoured with pumpkin puree, brown sugar, vanilla, and scented with cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg, it’s everything nice about the advent of falling leaves (and temperatures).

This next recipe steers directly into chocolate land, but manages to stay healthy. With a name like Brown Butter Chocolate Oatmeal you’ll feel like you should save this for a special occasion, but don’t. It perked up my Monday morning in no small way. You’ll need to sign up for NYT Cooking to get the recipe, but it’s worth it. Basically you brown butter in a saucepan, toast your steel cut oats in it for a few minutes, and then stir cocoa powder into the boiling water before adding in the buttery oats and a smidge of salt. I topped mine with a sprinkle of toasted hazelnuts, demerara sugar and a little milk.



Yogurt Strawberry Banana Smoothie

Breakfast of Summer

Breakfast of Summer

I’ve named this smoothie in the order that the ingredients get chucked into my blender. I don’t have precise amounts for you, and I usually make this when I’ve got one eye on the clock and most of my mind trying to decide what to wear to work. If I had to guess I’d say I use about a cup of plain yogurt, several frozen strawberries and a whole banana, and it always ends up fitting into a pint glass.

This smoothie is my go-to breakfast for summer. It’s gentle, cooling and absolutely delicious.

all set to liquefy

What makes this smoothie a joy to make is my blender. Not just any blender can tackle frozen strawberries and I had to find one that could pulverize them within seconds. Happily, after a quick online search, I found many websites and forums praising Oster’s ability to handle frozen strawberries. I ended up buying an affordable 12-speed Oster and it gets the job done.

Steel Cut Oats

My holistic practitioner is amazing. Much more than a massage therapist, I float out of her office after appointments, with blissed out neck and shoulder muscles, sometimes mulling over nutrition suggestions she’s made based on my symptoms and complaints.

Most of it is hardly newsworthy stuff; take vitamins, drink lots of water, cut down on sugar, eat more vegetables. However, during one visit she recommended replacing the quick-cook rolled oats I use for oatmeal with steel cut oats – they’re easier to digest. At the time I didn’t know much about steel cut oats, but assumed that because they are less processed, they’d take much longer to cook. With that, I gave them no further thought, filed away in my mind as “too much trouble” and “probably taste horrible anyway”.

Well, obviously I was meant to try them. One morning, soon after that appointment, a small article about steel cut oats appeared in the food section of The Star. Included a recipe and answered all my questions, right down to which brands to try.

Turns out, they’re wonderful! They do take some time to cook, but thanks to Jennifer Bain’s suggestion of cooking four portions worth in advance and then re-heating a portion in the microwave with a splash of water for 2 minutes in the morning was exactly the kind information I needed to work them into my a.m. routine.

They take about 20 -30 minutes to cook, but I just cook them at night or on the weekend, when I’m not in a rush. After re-heating, I sprinkle on some cinnamon, add chunks of banana and pour on maple syrup and milk. Then I’m all set for the chilly walk to the subway. Rarely does something this good for me match up in taste.

4 cups water

1 cup steel cut oats

1/2 tsp salt

Add steel cut oats to boiling water in a medium saucepan, bringing back to the boil briefly. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally. When they’ve reached the desired doneness, anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes,  stir in the salt. Let stand for a few moments and serve.


Perfect for Saturday mornings.

3/4 cup flour
pinch of salt
1 egg
1 1/4 cups milk
oil, for frying

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl and make a well in the center. Add the egg and whisk well with a balloon whisk. Gradually beat in the milk, drawing the flour from the sides to make a smooth batter. It will be the consistency of light whipping cream. Cover and let stand, if possible, for 20 minutes.

Heat a small amount of oil in a non-stick frying pan or crêpe pan. Pour in just enough batter to thinly coat the bottom of the pan. Cook over a medium-high heat about 1 minute until golden brown. Turn or toss and cook the other side 1/2 – 1 minute until golden.

Transfer the crêpe to a plate and keep hot. Repeat with remaining batter.

I like them rolled up with raspberry jam or chocolate spread.

Source: Moyra Fraser, Classic Step-By-Step Cookbook


Breakfast/brunch is my favourite meal of the day. I’m an oatmeal girl on weekdays, but there’s nothing I love more on the weekends than a good brunch, with lots of hollandaise. A filling brunch will keep me going for hours, usually until dinner time.

If you ever get bored with your breakfast routine, give Mr. a try. The “restaurants” section seems to be American, until you scroll to the bottom and choose International. You will then find a comprehensive list of cities to choose from in Canada and around the world.