Mrs Fitz's Porridge from Outlander
"Weel now, that's verra gude. Now, ye've just time for a wee bite, then I must take you to himself."
"Himself?" I said. I didn't care for the sound of this. Whoever Himself was, he was likely to ask difficult questions.
"Why, the MacKenzie to be sure. Whoever else?"
Who else indeed? Castle Leoch, I dimly recalled, was in the middle of the clan MacKenzie lands. Plainly the clan chieftain was still the MacKenzie. I began to understand why our little band of horsemen had ridden through the night to reach the castle; this would be a place of impregnable safety to men pursued by the Crown's men. No English officer with a grain of sense would lead his men so deeply into the clan lands. To do so was to risk death by ambush at the first clump of trees. And only a good-sized army would come as far as the castle gates. I was trying to remember whether in fact the English army ever had come so far, when I suddenly realized that the eventual fate of the castle was much less relevant than my immediate future.
I had no appetite for the bannocks and parritch that Mrs. FitzGibbons had brought for my breakfast, but crumbled a bit and pretended to eat, in order to gain some time for thought. By the time Mrs. Fitz came back to conduct me to the MacKenzie, I had cobbled together a rough plan.
Diana Gabaldon, Outlander, chapter 5, "The MacKenzie"
Porridge. Parritch. And, over on this side of the pond, oatmeal. However you say it (parritch is the most fun), it's easy to make -- maybe a little too easy for a food blog -- but, when it comes down to it, where else could Outlander Kitchen begin? I mean, really?
And I have no doubt that we'll find ourselves coming back to the porridge bowl for another helping (and recipe) at some point -- there's a lot of different types of oats and ways to prepare them out there -- but we've got time for steel-cut and whole groats later. Today, we're going to start with the common rolled oat, sometimes sold as oatmeal. It's as ubiquitous on the modern grocery store shelf as parritch was on Jamie's breakfast table.
Speaking of Mr. Fraser, since there is certainly no shortage of references to him eating parritch across DG's 7 Outlander tomes, you may be wondering why I picked this particular excerpt. You'd think I'd want to start with a scene that includes Jamie -- he's the star of the show for most of us, isn't he?
Well, yes...but...it's in these pages where the adventure started for me as a first-time reader. Every time I've read them since (I'll admit to a few), I can remember my initial excitement and how I devoured it all: the uncertainty of Claire's predicament, the mystery of the castle and the previous night spent on Jamie's lap, crying into his chest.
As for the food, this is Mrs. Fitz's everyday parritch, which means that, although it's made basic with just water, it's hearty, well seasoned and lump free. Really, Claire should have tried to get a little more down -- she's going to need her strength -- because when Colum mac Campbell is the MacKenzie, difficult questions are just the beginning.
Mrs. Fitzgibbons's Parritch
Yield: 2+ Cups (Serves 3-4)
An easy-to-make breakfast that is rib sticking, nutritious and full of fibre. There's a reason the Scots have been starting their day with it for centuries...
- Rolled Oats - 1 Cup (240 ml)
- Water - 1¼ Cups (300 ml)
- Salt - generous pinch
Bring the water to a boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over high heat.
Reduce to medium and stir the oats into the water. Bring the water back to the boil, stirring continuously.
Reduce to low, cover and simmer for 20 - 30 minutes. Halfway through, add the salt and stir well, then recover for the remainder of the cooking time.
Serve, 18th Century style, with a pat of butter and a sprinkle of sea salt. Save the leftovers for bannocks (coming soon!)
- Quick-cooking or instant oats are not a substitute for rolled oats. Their smaller pieces result in a mushy, unappealing finished product, and the extra processing certainly can't add to their nutritional value. Besides, despite the quickening pace of modern life, I refuse to believe that 20 minutes is not an "instant breakfast."
- The longer you cook porridge, the thicker and creamier it will be -- to a point -- overcooked porridge is "rather on the stodgy side," as Claire might say.