Mrs. Bug's Overnight Porridge from Outlander book The Fiery Cross

Mrs. Bug's Overnight Parritch from The Fiery Cross

"Mmmphm!"  said Mrs. Bug's voice, grimly satisfied at having routed the rioters.  The door closed, and the clang of wood and clang of metal from below announced the commencement of the day's activities.

When I went down a few moments later, I found that good lady engaged simultaneously in toasting bread, boiling coffee, making parritch, and complaining as she tidied up the men's leavings.  Not about the untidiness -- what else could be expected of men? -- but rather that Jamie had not waked her to provide a proper breakfast for them.

"And how's Himself to manage, then?" she demanded, brandishing the toasting-fork at me in reproach.  "A fine, big man like that , and him out and doing wi' no more to line his wame that a wee sup of milk and a stale bannock?"

Casting a bleary eye over the assorted crumbs and dirty crockery, it appeared to me that Himself and his companions had probably accounted for at least two dozen corn muffins and an entire loaf of salt-rising bread, accompanied by a pound or so of fresh butter, a jar of honey, a bowl of raisins, and all of the first milking.

"I don't think he'll starve," I murmured, dabbing up a crumb with a moistened forefinger.  "Is the coffee ready?"

The Fiery Cross, chapter 22

I had my first major fail in the Outlander Kitchen a couple of days back.  It involved steel-cut oats, my slow cooker and it was ugly in the extreme.  I'll save you a picture or even a detailed description -- after the 2012 Resolution Diet, I'm scared to show any more nasty photos -- lest we forget this is actually a TASTY food blog.

What was I thinking?  Mrs. Bug certainly wouldn't have had a slow cooker...I can just hear her saying: "What are ye doin'?  All you need for parritch is a kettle!" (This from a woman who keeps a gold bar in her knitting bag.  If she could have had a slow-cooker, she would have bought 3.)

But after the crock-pot disaster, I went old-school and, well...I phoned my Mom.  She told me a wonderful story I'd never heard before, about how she made guerilla porridge in her room at nursing school, with just hot water, oats and a bowl. (Food in the rooms was strictly forbidden.)


And so, instead of parritch made in a slow-cooker brought through the stones (it was quite a story, I tell you), we have my Mom's overnight porridge from Vancouver General Hospital's Nurses' Residence.  But I suspect Mrs. Bug probably did something similar, to make her mornings go more smoothly.  She had a lot of mouths to feed.

Oh, and I added the butter.  It's my classical french training.  I couldn't help it.


Show/Hide Comments


05 Jan 2012 - 12:04pm


I tend to be "old school" with a lot of things, but I just don't know if I can eat something that's been sitting out all night.


It`s oats, water and a little butter. All of these things can be stored for weeks, if not months, without refrigeration. Food safety is not an issue here. However, if you`re really concerned about it, simply soak the oats in the hot water for a couple of hours and then refrigerate overnight. Proceed with the recipe in the am, giving the oats a few extra minutes on the stove.


All right....I guess I'll have to give it a try! :)

05 Jan 2012 - 12:46pm

Lee Ann

This will be great on my early mornings for work! The less to do the better...and I hate running out without a hot breakfast on these cold winter mornings!


You're so right Lee Ann...I'm just not the same if I don't have a hot breakfast to get me going.

05 Jan 2012 - 1:41pm


This is great- my daughter & I love oatmeal & it will buy me some time in the mornings before the kids are off to school!

05 Jan 2012 - 1:45pm


Soaking your oats is also BETTER for you, too! There is a nutritional reason Mrs. Bug soaked her oats overnight (even though she didn't know the science behind it). From Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon: all grains contain phytic acid in the outer layer or bran. Untreated phytic acid can combine with with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption. Soaking allows enzymes, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms to break down and neutralize phytic acid. The simple practice of soaking cracked or rolled cereal grains overnight will vastly improve their nutritional benefits. (p455)nnMore from Sally (p456): nnSamuel Johnson defined oats as a grain used in England to feed horses and in Scotland to feed the populace.' . . . Folklore values oats as contributing to strength, endurance, energy, beauty and perceptiveness.nnOats are rich in B vitamins and in calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. They contain more oil than most grains. Oats are low in gluten but contain more phytates than almost any other grain. Thus, it is very important to soak oats before preparation. The phytates are contained in the brain of the aot and can have a chelating or detoxifying effect. This is why the oat bran fad gave beneficial results at first; but frequent ingestion of unsoaked oat bran can lead to mineral losses, allergies and irritation of the intestinal tract.nnIn Scotland it was the custom to prepare oatmeal in large batches and pour the cooked cereal into a drawer in the kitchen hutch or dresser! Squares of congealed oatmeal could then be cut out as needed and reheated by adding a little water. This process allowed the oatmeal to ferment a second time.nnSally suggests soaking in water, sea salt, and one of the following: whey, yoghurt, kefir or buttermilk (vinegar or lemon juice if lactose-intolerant) to aid the fermentation process. nn*Laura


Love that Samuel Johnson quote. Thanks Laura!

Christine | O…

Spot on, Laura! I was going to suggest soaking in some whey or buttermilk--probably what Mrs. Bug had the easiest access to--but you beat me to it! :)

05 Jan 2012 - 2:24pm

Julia Marks Zuniga

I bought a can of McCann's steel cut oats - there's instructions on the back about letting them soak overnight. Trying to cook a one-serving amount (1/4 cup dry) in the morning for myself proved to take WAY too long. I need to try the overnight method - problem I have is that no one else in my family (husband and 3 kids) eats oatmeal (err, I mean parritch) so it's just moi. And while my 7 yr old will eat the sweetened instant junk in those individual packets, I want the real thing. How do you think your overnight method would work with the steel-cut variety?


It will work with the steel cut oats, Julia (although I haven`t tried it yet) -- you may have to cook the oats a little longer the next morning though -- and remember that steel-cut oats have a slightly chewier texture than rolled oats...stir a little brown sugar and cinnamon in there, then try to get your 7yr old to try a spoonful. It leaves the instant stuff in the dust!nnHalf this recipe will probably feed you for 2 mornings. Refrigerate the leftovers, then heat them up with a little more milk the next day. Enjoy!

05 Jan 2012 - 3:48pm

Hey Paw

YUM! Heap, that's it. YUM!

05 Jan 2012 - 3:48pm

Hey Paw

Oops, darn auto correct. Yeap, not heap. :)

05 Jan 2012 - 4:09pm

The Mom Chef …

I love the idea of this. Dudette's always clamoring for breakfast first thing in the morning and it would be so nice to have a pot of this ready to go! I prefer golden raisins mixed in with my oatmeal. :)

05 Jan 2012 - 4:39pm


We have done a similar overnight soak with steel cut oats and I've also done this with quinoa. nRegarding your crock pot disaster, I have made Alton Brown's steel cut oats recipe many times with success. Here's a link:


Thanks for that, Lori...I love Alton. I don't know why I didn't go to him first. Theresa


I always use the crockpot with steel cut oats. I use a small 1.5 qt crock with 1 cup oats to 4 cups water. Set on low for at least 8 morning is creamy, hot parritch waiting for me! I can add butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, dried or fresh fruit, whatever. Love the texture and taste difference between it and commercial flat rolled oats or instant oats.

05 Jan 2012 - 4:42pm

Kiri W.

I love overnight porridge/oats! This looks great and like something I'd dig into any day.

05 Jan 2012 - 5:38pm

Judi Nadreau (…

I just love the texture of real oats in oatmeal. No instant stuff for me. Thank you so much for bringing me back to basics with this recipe. nnI'm delighted with what I see in this blog and feel so much closer to the Frasers et al. Thank you!

05 Jan 2012 - 6:04pm


We always soaked ours over night..still do.....I cover with water and set it in my microwave....when I'm ready to add stuff and cook it it is ready to go!nWe also use flavored coffee creamers on coffee toffee..chocolate toffee..Irish or Italian cream end of the flavors you can add!

05 Jan 2012 - 7:17pm


HONEY. Tehehehehehehehe.

06 Jan 2012 - 5:27pm


This is lovely! And I love the way you told the story, too. Thanks to Mrs Bug and your mom.nI'm going to try it tonight!


And may you have a hearty breakfast in the morning! Theresa

09 Jan 2012 - 9:02am

An Elizabetha…

what a week first the crockpot porridge fiasco, now

17 Jan 2012 - 2:03am

Arona Haywood

Thank you!!! I wondered what parritch was! Thought it must be like oatmeal!

01 Mar 2012 - 3:32am

tami hottinger

i've loved quaker rolled oats since i was little and i still cook and eat it today, fixed it for my kids and they still fix it, it's like comfort food scottish style. you rank right up there with diana as Very Cool Ladies, and i truly appreciate both of you! thanks for your ideas!


Well, you certainly put me in fine company, Tami! I'm flattered. And thanks for stopping by to share your story...:)

tami hottinger

guess i'd better spell check! i meant Rank, as opposed to arnk....:P

11 Apr 2012 - 10:11am

Nik MacKechnie

I have had this the last two mornings for my breakfast, nicely stirred with a spurtle until is warmed up then in a bowl with a touch of cream, dried blueberries and pecan nuts!!

26 May 2012 - 9:04pm

Charles Allan

Has anyone tried a savoury version? Something like congee. One may have bits of meats and/or vegetables along with or in the savoury parritch. Excellent for those who do not want a sweet breakfast. (Good for lunch too!) Actually preferred in my home when made with chicken broth and sauteed minced onions and mushrooms.

Alice Watkins

Sounds interesting. I like grits as a savory grain dish so oatmeal parritch may be next on my list.

26 May 2012 - 9:10pm

Charles Allan

Forgot to mention in earlier comment that a SMALL amount of rich cream or sourcream or plain yogurt added to the finished product raises it to another level.

06 Aug 2012 - 7:40am


I was born in England but raised in the Highlands (north and west of Inverness) from the age of five. Until I spent two weeks in Bragar on the Isle of Lewis, I thought porridge (parritch is not a pronunciation nor spelling with which I am familiar) involved oats, milk and sugar.nnThen I discovered that Scottish porridge is oats, water and a good pinch of salt.nnAdding milk and sugar to that mixture was not at all pleasant!nnI still can't eat porridge made the Scottish way.nnOatmeal, to me, is very finely ground oats. I was raised on a brand of porridge oats named Scott's Porage Oats (their cute spelling) - the one with the big, braw man in a kilt, with a caber, on the front of the box. Today I am slumming it with Quaker instant oatmeal, as my emergency ration has run out. You see, I married an American who works in Germany, so finding any proper food is hard!

03 Dec 2012 - 4:00am


I'm going to try this one tonight so I can have it in the morning. I've been craving good oatmeal...I mean parritch. I'll be trying it with steel cut rather then rolled though. We shall see...Let the experiment begin. Love the blog by the way. :)

03 Jan 2013 - 6:32pm


I do something similar to Alton Brown's recipe. I don't have a crock pot (slow cooker) but I do have a Dutch Oven (5qt). I put 1 cup of steel cut oats, 2 cups milk, 2 cups water and 1/2 cup Maui raw sugar (i live in Hawaii and the raw sugar that comes from the Maui fields has a subtle caramel/pineapple aftertaste). Give it a quick stir, put the top on and put it in my oven at 190 degrees (F) for about 9 hours. nWhen it's done, I like to add currants and almond slivers.nnI do wonder if this counts towards soaking the oats before hand. (like it was mentioned above) It's such a slow cooking process.


That sounds delicious, Bree! Steel cut oats take longer to absorb water and cook, and there's plenty of time in 9 hours to do both! nnI will (eventually) have a steelcut porridge recipe, most likely using the slow cooker...Phaedre makes Duncan a very special bowl of parritch that I'd like to try. :D

14 Mar 2013 - 9:35pm

Elaine Boyle

I make my oatmeal with just water and salt, as Michelle said is the Scots way, then add a little butter and sweetener (molasses, honey, sugar, or a mixture) and maybe some cinnamon to the bowl just before eating. Growing up in East Tennessee, our morning cereal was usually cornmeal mush, which is made pretty much the same way (just salt and water, then sweetened in the bowl). Any leftovers were shaped into a loaf and refrigerated, then sliced and fried for another meal. Nowadays the fancy restaurants call that polenta and charge you a fortune for it!

09 May 2013 - 1:05am


Hi, I love the cooked rolled oats, my Grandpa was a Scot and ate this for breakfastn every morning (I didn't know that I had been taught to cook it in a Scottish way though). My boys didn't care for it much so I tried adding a few drops of vanilla and a splash of maple syrup and they loved it that way. I added these when cooking. Just thought I'd share.


Great suggestion, Candy! Thank you.

06 Aug 2014 - 3:21am


I just recently discovered both your blog and the books and I think I might be just as obsessed about your site as I am about Outlander. I love cooking and I have tried a few of your recipes with much success. Your biscuit recipe is the lightest and fluffiest I have ever had. I'm trying this one now, I'm using steel cut oats and I'm hoping it will turn out ok. I don't think I've ever had oatmeal that wasn't instant. I'm so excited! Love your blog and thank you so much for bringing even more life to the awesome story. :)


Jess, welcome to our virtual hearth! You may need to cook those steel cuts for this space for a steel cut recipe coming up next week!

08 Oct 2014 - 1:50pm


I heard this story and thought of you! I really enjoy your blog, keep up the good work. It's nice to see the recognition that you've gotten through the Starz series, you've earned it.

25 Nov 2014 - 6:10am

Alice Watkins

my best friend does something similar with steel cut oats. He makes up a big batch one night during the weekend and portions out about a cup and a half or so of oatmeal and a cup of frozen fruit usually berries of some sort into individual containers then stacks them in the fridge. He nukes it for about a minute to warm it back up and the fruit juice sweetens the oats just enough for him. I add a packet of Splenda but then I have a sweet tooth. We both add a dash of cinnamon if we think of it, but it's good without too.

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