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Mrs. Bug’s Overnight Parritch from The Fiery Cross

Mrs. Bug’s Overnight Parritch from The Fiery Cross

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?”

Diana Gabaldon, 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.


(Click on the title below for a printable version of the recipe.)

Mrs. Bug’s Overnight Parritch

Yield: 2+ Cups (Serves 3-4)

Start it just before you go to bed, and finish it in the morning for the creamiest, most nutritious & delicious breakfast you can make in 5 minutes.

  • Rolled Oats – 1 Cup
  • Butter – 1 tsp
  • Salt – pinch
  • Boiling Water – 1 Cup
  • Milk – ¼ to ½ Cup
  • Cinnamon – ¼ Tsp

Combine the oats, butter and salt in a small saucepan.  Pour in the boiling water, stir once, then cover the pot and leave overnight.

In the morning, add the milk to the pot and heat gently over med. low.  Cook, stirring regularly, until hot and cooked through, about 5-7 minutes.  Stir in the cinnamon and serve, garnished with butter, honey and dried fruit, if desired.


  • I don’t think for a minute that Mrs. Bug ever made a 1 cup batch of parritch in her whole life, but let’s get real: her batches would have fed an army.  This recipe serves 2 adults and 2 small kids for breakfast.  If you’ve got a bigger bunch to feed, it’s easily multiplied.
  • Raisins, apricots, cranberries and dates are some of my favourite dried fruit garnishes.

Ith gu leòir! (Eat Plenty)



  1. corbinmom
    January 5, 2012 at 5:04 am

    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.

    • Theresa
      January 5, 2012 at 8:22 am

      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.

    • corbinmom
      January 5, 2012 at 8:32 am

      All right….I guess I’ll have to give it a try! 🙂

  2. Lee Ann
    January 5, 2012 at 5:46 am

    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!

    • Theresa
      January 15, 2012 at 9:40 pm

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

  3. outlanderfan
    January 5, 2012 at 6:41 am

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

    • Theresa
      January 5, 2012 at 11:34 am

      Enjoy it, Jenn!

  4. Laura
    January 5, 2012 at 6:45 am

    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)

    More from Sally (p456):

    Samuel 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.

    Oats 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.

    In 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.

    Sally 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.


    • Theresa
      January 5, 2012 at 8:19 am

      Love that Samuel Johnson quote. Thanks Laura!

    • 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! 🙂

  5. Julia Marks Zuniga
    January 5, 2012 at 7:24 am

    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?

    • Theresa
      January 5, 2012 at 8:19 am

      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!

      Half 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!

  6. Hey Paw
    January 5, 2012 at 8:48 am

    YUM! Heap, that’s it. YUM!

  7. Hey Paw
    January 5, 2012 at 8:48 am

    Oops, darn auto correct. Yeap, not heap. 🙂

  8. 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. 🙂

    • Theresa
      January 5, 2012 at 10:21 am

      The combo of the raisins and cinnamon was awesome!

  9. Lori
    January 5, 2012 at 9:39 am

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

    • Theresa
      January 5, 2012 at 10:20 am

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

    • Jackie
      November 24, 2014 at 9:11 pm

      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 hrs….next 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.

  10. Kiri W.
    January 5, 2012 at 9:42 am

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

  11. Judi Nadreau (@JudiNadreau)
    January 5, 2012 at 10:38 am

    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.

    I’m delighted with what I see in this blog and feel so much closer to the Frasers et al. Thank you!

    • Theresa
      January 5, 2012 at 11:08 am

      Thanks very much Judi! I’m not much for “instant” food either. 😉

  12. ruaTimeTraveler2
    January 5, 2012 at 11:04 am

    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!
    We also use flavored coffee creamers on top…like coffee toffee..chocolate toffee..Irish or Italian cream …no end of the flavors you can add!

  13. Alayna
    January 5, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    HONEY. Tehehehehehehehe.

    • Theresa
      January 5, 2012 at 12:55 pm


  14. deniz
    January 6, 2012 at 10:27 am

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

    • Theresa
      January 6, 2012 at 7:43 pm

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

  15. Arona Haywood
    January 16, 2012 at 7:03 pm

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

    • Theresa
      January 17, 2012 at 7:36 am

      The best breakfast in the world!

  16. tami hottinger
    February 29, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    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!

    • Theresa
      March 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm

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

    • tami hottinger
      March 1, 2012 at 1:19 pm

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

    • Theresa
      March 1, 2012 at 1:29 pm

      done. 😉

  17. Nik MacKechnie
    April 11, 2012 at 3:11 am

    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!!

    • Theresa
      April 11, 2012 at 9:57 am

      That sounds delicious, Nik!

  18. Charles Allan
    May 26, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    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
      November 25, 2014 at 9:22 pm

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

  19. Charles Allan
    May 26, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    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.

  20. Michelle
    August 6, 2012 at 12:40 am

    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.

    Then I discovered that Scottish porridge is oats, water and a good pinch of salt.

    Adding milk and sugar to that mixture was not at all pleasant!

    I still can’t eat porridge made the Scottish way.

    Oatmeal, 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!

  21. Lauren
    December 2, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    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. 🙂

  22. Bree
    January 3, 2013 at 11:32 am

    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.
    When it’s done, I like to add currants and almond slivers.

    I do wonder if this counts towards soaking the oats before hand. (like it was mentioned above) It’s such a slow cooking process.

    • Theresa
      January 3, 2013 at 12:05 pm

      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!

      I 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. 😀

  23. Elaine Boyle
    March 14, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    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!

  24. candy
    May 8, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    Hi, I love the cooked rolled oats, my Grandpa was a Scot and ate this for breakfast
    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.

    • Theresa
      May 9, 2013 at 2:33 pm

      Great suggestion, Candy! Thank you.

  25. Jess
    August 5, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    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. 🙂

    • Theresa
      August 6, 2014 at 7:28 am

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

  26. JaneEllen
    October 8, 2014 at 6:50 am

    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.

  27. Alice Watkins
    November 24, 2014 at 10:10 pm

    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.

  28. Pat G
    November 25, 2014 at 4:30 am

    I love oats! Have them almost every morning. I have never tried the overnight but I sure will now. I always cook mine with cinnamon and add butter and honey…usually add just a dash of nutmeg and some flax seeds as well. Can’t wait to try the overnight method!

  29. Kathi
    November 25, 2014 at 7:27 am

    I use the same ingredients for my oatmeal, and I cook it overnight in the crock pot in a water bath. Tried it once directly in the pot, turned into cement haha!

    • Alice Watkins
      November 25, 2014 at 9:19 pm

      I would not ever make oatmeal in my slow cooker without a cooking bag. My time is valuable and now there’s a grocery store version of them!

  30. Stephanie
    November 25, 2014 at 8:37 am

    I swapped the regular oats for steel cut (1/4c oats to 1 c water), brought to a boil, then covered and let sit overnight. Added the milk, and brought to a simmer until thickened (added golden raisins during the last few mins of simmering). Topped with sliced bananas, chopped pecans, brown sugar and a little milk. Served with a cup of English tea with milk.

  31. Penelope
    December 2, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    That’s how my Dad always makes porridge. I would make it that way, except I never know from one day to the next what my kids are going to eat – and I can’t stand the suff myself!!

  32. Anna Lapping
    September 17, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    Theresa, I have had an incident with steel cut oats and a slow cooker as well. Not pretty, but this sounds like it should work, and if it ever cools off here, I will definitely try it. I could also try Stephanie’s method as I really love the texture of the steel cut oats. I’ll give a report in November.

  33. Kathleen Giles
    January 4, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    Sounds like your mom was very creative. Cooking was also forbidden in my dorm during the 70’s. We could have popcorn poppers, so we fixed soup in those. I also got pretty darned good at fixing grilled cheese sandwiches with my iron. No, this was the 70’s — I didn’t iron clothing. I wore t-shirts and blue jeans. I’m going to try the parritch. Thanks.

  34. Terri
    January 4, 2016 at 2:51 pm

    I am astounded that 1 cup of oats can feed that many mouths 🙂 I soak 3 cups for 1 adult and 4 children. I’m only a wee thing so my kids must be disgustingly over fed haha

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