Scottish heritage recipes – Orcadian oatmeal soup
Oats are the cereal for which Scotland is most famous for good reason. The short summer growing season makes the climate ideal and the Scots of all backgrounds used it as their staple crop, whether in their brose, as oatcakes, for stuffing or as skirlie, the oat was as ubiquitous as many believe the chip to be these days. In fact the Ancient universities of Scotland had a Meal Monday holiday on the second Monday in February when students were allowed to return in their farms to collect more food, such is the importance of the oat. To many a Scot it was his meat.
In these days of 2 minute microwave oats, it’s rare for oatmeal to be soaked overnight and eaten at breakfast, but it is a treat worth waiting for and the effort for the warmth and vitality that thick nutty goodness leaves in you for the day. In Catherine Brown’s landmark book on Scottish food heritage, Broths to Bannocks, she talks at length of the joy of ‘slow ripened Scottish oatmeal, kiln-dried and ground in the traditional way between millstones’. There’s nothing quite like traditional oatmeal for depth of flavour. The recipe below is from that book, it is a hearty, sweet, warming broth of Scottish vegetables with the oatmeal giving it substance. When I first read the recipe I wondered if I was going to get a thin slightly mealy and watery soup lacking in seasoning with no stock. In fact it was rich beyond measure, with flavours of the land, just what a crofter would need after a hard day at the peats.