Read somewhere that the primary use of oats is as livestock feed. Hipsters are going to pounce on this, but I’ll take the risk and say it – it was best left as livestock feed.
I am not alone. Quora, an international question-and-answer website, has several threads on:
Why do some people hate oatmeal so much?
Why is oatmeal so disgusting?
How can I learn to like oatmeal if I hate the texture?
What is a good substitute for oatmeal? I absolutely hate the texture of oatmeal but crave the healthy benefits.
Hard to believe, seeing the frenzy around oats, but there’s really a global clique of oatmeal-haters, who dislike its mushy texture. Having said that, oats are a powerhouse of nutrients. The cereal, most commonly consumed as rolled oats or oatmeal, is packed with dietary fibre. A paper published in 2008 in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine indicated that eating foods rich in whole-oat sources could help fight coronary heart disease. It also lowers the risk of colorectal cancer, helps with digestion and keeps blood pressure and obesity under check. So, while oats make for a quick and nutritious breakfast staple, it can be a rather boring meal to kick start your day.
For those, who don't fancy oats due to its taste and texture, we reached out to chefs and gastronomes to help us chalk out recipes that balance out the bad things about oats – blandness, mushy texture, gloopy form and chalky taste – with tasty combinations, imaginative pairing and cool techniques that will make you look at oats differently if not “fall in love with it.” Check it out!
A blank canvas
Offering a chef’s perspective, in terms of cooking with oats, popular chef Vicky Ratnani tells us, “For me, oats are like a blank canvas and there’s loads you can do with it, right from using it in savoury porridge, such as with mushroom and parmesan, or with sautéed veggies and stock. You can also use it as a binder in tikkis and patties or use it to make a crust.”
Oat & Nut Crusted Cottage Cheese Medallions by Chef Vicky Ratnani
3 paneer disks, 1 inch thick and 2 inch in height
1 tsp mustard
1 tsp garlic paste
½ tsp parika powder
1 tsp lime juice
3/4th cup oats
1/4 cup crushed almonds
1 tsp garam masala
Salt and pepper, to taste
- Marinate the paneer with mustard, garlic paste, paprika, lime and salt and pepper.
- For the crust, mix the oats, garam masala and nuts.
- Roll the marinated paneer in the crust mix.
- Preheat the oven to 190”C.
- Lightly brush a baking tray with oil.
- Place the oat-crusted cottage cheese on the tray.
- Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown.
- Serve with green mint and basil chutney.
As versatile as it gets
“I love oats! I think they’re fabulous. Oatmeal with honey is one of my go-to breakfast options. I also regularly make my own granola which is great as a breakfast parfait with yogurt and berries. They’re fun to bake with. Oatmeal cookies, oat muffins and banana bread with oatmeal are also great! I even use it to make crispy baked chicken. So, it’s a very versatile ingredient,” argues chef and restaurateur Rachel Goenka.
Salted Caramel and Oats Cookies by Rachel Goenka
300 gm flour
½ tsp baking soda
170 gm unsalted butter
100 gm castor sugar
200 gm brown sugar
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp vanilla essence
150 gm toffee sauce
100 gm white oats
10 gm sea salt, for dusting
- For toffee sauce, take a 100 gms of brown sugar in a heavy saucepan and make caramel. Then add 20 gm of salted butter and 100 gm Amul cream. Keep it ready half an hour before starting the cookie dough.
- Creaming method: Take a machine bowl, mix sugar and butter together and make it fluffy.
- Add eggs gradually, also add the toffee sauce.
- Pass all the dry ingredients together by strainer and add in the creaming batter and refrigerate for an hour.
- Make balls of 20 gms each and flatten them, place them on a baking sheet.
- Bake the cookies in the oven at 170 degrees Celsius for 14 mins.
- Remove and place on wire rack to cool. Dust with sea salt before serving.
The magic in oats
“We all grow up with this notion of oats being boring, overly nutritious and bland! And that was how I felt about oats until I started cooking, and particularly experimenting. They are so versatile and magical as an ingredient. Apart from the usual suspects like smoothies and breakfast bowls, I love using them to give an edge to my desserts. Like in this cake, where I use jumbo oats in combination with walnuts and brown sugar, for a delicious and crunchy cake topping. You’ve got to try it!” says chef and influencer Karishma Sakhrani.
Walnut Streusel Cake by Karishma Sakhrani
For the cake:
60 gms salted butter
200 gms condensed milk
90 gms water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
30 gms (1/4 cup) crushed walnuts
120 gms (1 cup) all-purpose flour
For the streusel topping:
30 gms (1/4 cup) chopped walnuts
3 tbsp dark brown granulated sugar
2 tbsp jumbo rolled oats
1 tsp cinnamon powder
Pinch of flaky salt
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
20 gms chilled butter
- Sift the flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the crushed walnuts to this mix and give it a stir.
- In a separate bowl, combine the baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- In another bowl, combine the butter and condensed milk and beat with an electric cake mixer until creamed.
- Add the water, vanilla extract, salt and raising agents.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and beat for a couple of minutes.
- For the streusel topping, cut the butter in to small cubes and place in the freezer for a few minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- Combine the chilled butter and flour in a food processor and pulse a couple of times. Add this to the rest of the topping ingredients and gently crumb using your fingertips. Do no overwork the mixture.
- Pour the cake batter into a prepared cake tin, tap it on the counter and sprinkle the walnut streusel topping over the entire top surface of the cake. Gently pat the topping into the cake batter.
- Bake at 180 degrees centigrade for 15 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 160 degrees, without opening the oven door. And bake further for another 15 minutes or until a knife comes clean through the centre.
- Let the cake cool for about ten minutes before turning it out on a wire rack to cool completely.
- Once cool, cut into it and serve. Remember to share it with someone you love!
Texture is God
Popular food influencer and chef in the making, Saloni Kukreja shares that she wasn't an oats person until about a year ago, when she started viewing different preparations. “Oat milk is one of my favourite milks now and I make it and drink it with my coffee often. A crisp texture is always a favourite and oats crisp up really well when you bake or even fry them. They’re a great substitute for breadcrumbs and you can use oats to bread meat or vegetables before pan-frying or deep frying them. I know a lot of people don't like the mushy texture of oats but what I've found is that using a flavourful liquid/broth instead of water to cook the oats makes all the difference,” she reveals.
Oat Crumble Bars by Saloni Kukreja
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter (113 grams)
1/3rd cup of castor sugar
1/4th cup brown sugar
1/2 tbsp fresh/dried rosemary
1 1/2 cup fresh/frozen raspberries
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp cornstarch
- Adjust your baking rack, place it on the middle panel and preheat the oven to 180 C.
- In a bowl, start by mixing the dry ingredients: oats, flour, salt, castor sugar and brown sugar.
- Cut the cold butter into manageable cubes and add the cubed butter to this dry mixture.
- Coat the cubes of butter well with the dry mixture.
- Working quickly, press each cube and flatten it with your hands, continuously coating with the dry mixture to prevent the butter from melting.
- Mix and rub in the butter in the dry mixture till it resembles pea sized bits of butter. The mixture should come together when clumped but break apart and crumble at the same time.
- Line an 8 x 4” cake loaf tin with parchment paper, make sure the edges of the parchment are jutting out so it makes it easier to pull out the bars.
- Place 2/3rds of the mixture in the tin, (reserve 1/3rd for the topping), Press down the mixture evenly in the tin till it is tightly packed down
- Bake this base for 20 minutes in a preheated oven. Store the rest of the mixture in the refrigerator while the base is baking.
- In a separate bowl mix the berries with the chia seeds, lemon juice and cornstarch. If using frozen berries, thaw them and bring them back to room temperature (get rid of the excess liquid).
- Coat the berries super well with the cornstarch, if they break down while mixing it’s completely alright.
- After the base has baked for 20 minutes, top it up with the raspberry chia mixture.
- To the remaining crumble mixture, add chopped fresh/dried rosemary and spread the mixture evenly on the raspberry layer.
- Bake for another 30-40 minutes until the top is golden brown
- Take the bars out of the oven, let them cool for 3—4 hours (you can refrigerate it once it cools down to room temperature).
- Once cooled, cut into 8 equal squares and enjoy!
An Indian Spin
“I am personally not fond of sweet cooked oats; I find them bland and boring and I would rather take my sugar in other forms if I had to have it in the morning. The dilemma when it comes to oats, is that I love them at the start of the day, even more than cereal. My favorite breakfasts growing up, and even now, used to be South Indian. So, it was inevitable that I would somehow find a way to make oats the South Indian,” shares food connoisseur, Nikhil Merchant, speaking about a unique recipe – rasam oats.
Rasam Oats by Nikhil Merchant
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
3 tsp rasam powder
1 tomato diced
1/4 cup peas
2 cups water
2 cloves garlic or 2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 onion chopped or 2 tbsp onion flakes
Salt and pepper
Lemon juice and coriander to garnish
2 boriya mirch
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp hing
1 tsp cumin seed
- Boil water with garlic and onion.
- Once boiling add the salt, pepper and oats.
- Halfway through cooking add the vegetables and rasam powder then, cover and cook till water is absorbed.
- Prepare tadka in coconut oil and add onto the oats and garnish with lemon and coriander
Images: Karishma Sakhrani, Nikhil Merchant, Saloni Kukreja, Rachel Goenka and Shutterstock.com