A Brief History of Scottish Porridge Oats

A Bowl of Porridge. GettyImages

Scottish porridge is synonymous with the country and has been for many a century. Since late medieval times, oats have grown in Scotland as the staple diet of crofters most probably as oats are highly nutritious and a sustaining food, perfect for the inclement weather often found in Scotland.

With no methods of preserving the oats, a thick paste was often made with oats and water. This was then cooled and stored in a wooden porridge drawer.

From the drawer, the paste (porridge) would be eaten over several days. As the porridge, when cold becomes somewhat thick and solid, this was useful as it could be cut into thick slices and eaten for lunch or fried for breakfast.

Traditionally porridge was cooked in a heavy saucepan with water and a little salt.  The porridge was stirred with a wooden spurtle a thick wooden stick. Superstition would have you believe the porridge should be stirred only using the right-hand and in a clockwise direction to ward off evil spirits.

Originally only made with water and salt, the paste, or porridge as it became known, bore little likeness to the thick, creamy mixture we know today.

Nowadays, when time is often short, many opt for instant porridge and a microwave; I am€ not sure that will keep evil spirits away.

Types of Oats Used for Porridge

The oats used for porridge will define the final dish and also how long the dish will take to cook.

If you use the fine oats, then, unsurprisingly, they will cook quicker.  For porridge,  the oats are usually, but not always, rolled oats rather than crushed and will be Scottish oats, which also known as "pinhead oats".

Use the rolled oats if what you like is a smooth , lump-free consistency and also for a porridge that cooks quickly.

Rolled oats are a medium grain and can also be used for traditional oatcakes, biscuits and in stuffings or in haggis.

Nutritionally, all the oats are the same. So you can always be assured no matter which you choose you will be having a hearty, healthy breakfast which will see  you through the morning. to see you through to lunchtime.

Oats are a slow release carbohydrate and perfect for a low G.I. diet. Research also shows they are also useful for lowering cholesterol.