Porridge has made a comeback in recent years as a healthy and hearty breakfast choice, but the modern version is often missing a vital ‘ingredient’. Traditionally there are many forms of porridge, from different corners of the world, made from just about every grain imaginable; Scottish oats, African porridges made from millet and teff, Asian rice congee, the list goes on. The one thing that seems to remain common though, whatever the recipe, is soaking the grains before cooking.
All whole grains contain phytic acid in the outer layer or bran. Phytic acid can combine with minerals in the digestive tract and block their absorption leading to mineral deficiencies. Soaking grains in warm water containing an acid such as lemon, vinegar, yoghurt or buttermilk begins the process of enzymes breaking down and neutralising phytic acid and improves their nutritional benefits.
When making breakfast porridge choose rolled or cracked oats rather than quick cooking varieties which have usually been processed and are less nutritious. Rolled or cracked oats will cook in as little as 5 minutes once soaked. Soak overnight in an equal volume of water warm water (e.g. 1 cup of oats = 1 cup of water) and add 2 tablespoons of lemon, yoghurt, kefir or buttermilk per cup. Once cooked, a little butter or cream will not only add to flavour but aids mineral absorption.
Soaking rice and other grains
Other grains will also benefit from soaking or slow cooking. Traditional Indian recipes usually call for rice and lentils to be soaked for a minimum of 7 hours with an acid such as any of the above choices. Some grains such asRyeor Teff may require as long as 24 hours soaking. Slow cooking rice at a low temperature for up to 2 hours will have a similar effect.
Paleo style diets are becoming more popular and do not include any grains, the logic being that grains are a relatively new addition to human diets and are not handled well by our digestive systems. If you are into the Paleo / primal / caveman diet you can make something resembling porridge using ground seeds or nuts. There are many recipe variations on the net e.g.
These recipes tend to be more time consuming and very calorie dense due to being based on ground seeds or nuts and often sweetened with dried fruit.