We have a long tradition of growing oats in Ireland. All the way back to before the medieval period, oats were used both for human consumption and also the major fuel for horses during that time. Always seen as the lowest of the grains, oats were used to make bread shaped as a broad, flat cake, and was also widely consumed in the form of porridges and gruel. Cheap ale was often brewed using oats rather than barley or wheat.
Perhaps our most famous historical oat-based food was the traditional Irish oatcake. A traveller to Ireland in the 17th century remarked that our general food was a thin oatcake which was baked upon a hot flat stone.
Oats were the common grain, used for everyday sustenance, whereas wheat and rye were used for special occasions or feasts. The Brehon laws which governed the everyday life of early medieval Ireland laid down that ‘inferior’ children were to be fed to a bare sufficiency on a gruel made of oatmeal and water with a little stale butter. The sons of chieftains were fed on barley meal, new milk and fresh butter, while King’s children would be sustained by wheat, milk and honey.
It is perhaps interesting, given its lowly status in our historical national pallet, that oatmeal would be the one carried through into our contemporary eating habits. I haven’t heard of anyone eating porridge made from barley or wheat.
With the meteoric rise of oat milk as the top choice for the alternative milk crowd (myself and James included), oats have yet again proven their usefulness and popularity in Ireland.
Oatmilk is, of course, incredibly easy to make yourself at home, requiring only some sea salt, oats, water, cheesecloth and a blender.
Oats are gluten-free, naturally sweet, slow-release energy cereals so are a great option for having in the morning, making breads, crumbles or biscuits with and of course, turning into oat milk for your coffee or tea.
Stout and treacle bread
The oats in this recipe really bind everything together and gives it an irresistible texture. If you can’t find Macroom flour, use as coarse a wholemeal flour as you can find
Preparation Time 5 mins
Cooking Time 35 mins
Total Time 40 mins
200g strong white flour
375g Macroom extra coarse wholemeal
1 teaspoon bread soda
1 ½ teaspoons salt
100g rolled oats + more to sprinkle on top
125ml Irish stout
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Line a loaf tin with parchment paper. In a large bowl mix the flours, bread soda, salt and oats.
Mix the Guinness, buttermilk and treacle in a large jug and pour into the dry ingredients, make sure to scrape the remaining treacle off the jug with a spatula. Scoop the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and top with a sprinkle of rolled oats.
Bake for 25 minutes and then lower the temperature slightly to 170°C and bake for a further 30 minutes.
When finished, take it out of the tin and cool on a wire rack. Make sure the loaf is cooked through by tapping the bottom, if it sounds ‘hollow’, it should be cooked —you could always turn it upside down and put it in the oven for a further 5 minutes just to make sure.
If you can’t find oatmeal or ground oats in a shop, then just blitz some oats in a food processor until they are powdery
Preparation Time 15 mins
Cooking Time 25 mins
Total Time 40 mins
150g oatmeal or ground oats
50g jumbo oats
80g hard farmhouse cheese, finely grated
3 sprigs of rosemary, needles minced
Good pinch of sea salt
Good crack of black pepper
1 pinch of hot smoked paprika
Preheat the oven to 160°C In a large mixing bowl, combine the oatmeal, jumbo oats, grated cheese, minced rosemary, sea salt, black pepper and paprika. Mix around with a whisk so everything is well combined.
Pour in 125ml of water and mix it all together with a wooden spoon. It will come together as sort of breadcrumbs at first but keep mixing and it will form a good firm but sticky dough.
Set the dough aside for around 10 minutes to rest. Lightly flour a clean worktop and roll the dough out so that it is around 5mm thick.
Using a biscuit cutter, cut as many rounds as you can out of the dough, placing them on a lined baking sheet. You can gather up the leftovers and rollout again to get as many biscuits as you can out of the dough.
Place the baking sheet in the oven for around 25 minutes until the biscuits are just about starting to turn golden.
Remove from the oven and leave the biscuits to cool on a wire rack. Keep in a sealed jar.