I had a little cookbook years ago titled something like A Little Book of Scottish Recipes. I assume it must have been a gift or maybe I picked it up in a gift shop on a trip to Scotland. I don’t know what happened to it, but I don’t seem to own it anymore. It had a recipe for skirlie (though honestly, I’d forgotten the name) and it became a regular dinner for me when I was young and on a budget. Simple oatmeal with savory flavors is really comforting. I even put salt on those instant oatmeal packets. I recently ran across a recipe in a magazine for oat risotto and pulled it out because it sounded comforting. When I actually read the recipe, it immediately brought to mind that recipe from the Scottish cookbook. I did a little internet research and rediscovered skirlie, a dish described as oats cooked with fat and onions (which isn’t in and of itself particularly inspiring). So here is my combined effort – combining traditional skirlie with classic risotto. My add-ins are loosely based on cacio e pepe – pecorino cheese and lots of black pepper.
Steel cut oats are the choice for this. You can use classic or quick cooking, though the quick cooking version requires less liquid to reach an al dente texture. I find shallots add a gentler taste than regular onions, but sometimes I use green onions. Any herbs that appeal to you will work, and you could add some other spices. Pecorino melds in beautifully with the oats, but parmesan works as well. A pat of butter melting over the top is a nice little finishing touch. I like a hearty bowl of this as a meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner), but is also a nice side dish for a simple roasted meat.
Savory Oat Skirlie
2 Tablespoon butter
1 medium shallot, finely minced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 cup steel cut oats (see note)
½ cup white wine
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
¼ cup grated pecorino cheese
2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
- Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the minced shallots and cook until soft and glassy. Add the garlic and cook a further minute. Sprinkle in the oats and stir to coat with the butter. Cook for a few minutes until lightly toasted, stirring constantly. Pour in the wine and cook, stirring, until it is mostly absorbed. Add the broth, a half a cup at a time and cook, stirring constantly, until each addition is absorbed. Cook until the oats are cooked through and al dente – cooked through, but still with a little bite. Stir in the pecorino and the sage until the cheese is melted. Season really well with salt (the broth is likely to add some, so start slow) and lots of pepper. Stir in the heavy cream and serve immediately.
- Note: Regular or quick cooking steel cut oats will work. Quick cooking will need less broth to reach al dente, so taste carefully as you go.