Wednesday, January 6, 2010

On fulfilling a craving overseas, now with coffee grinder

Sometimes when you've got a hankering for something here in Chile (or wherever you may be), you've got to improvise. With any luck, you have really boring, whole-foodsy taste, like myself, and you're craving Irish oatmeal. What's Irish oatmeal, you say? Breakfast blasphemer! Oats are little nuggets of tasty, like wheat kernels. When you eat regular oatmeal, the little tasty nuggets have been flattened into flakes, or microthin flakes, if you like instant oatmeal. The result (in my opinion) is watery and gloppy, overcooked and wallpaper-pasty (sorry if I just insulted your breakfast, you can come and insult my lunch later if you like).

Irish oatmeal, on the other hand, is cracked, or broken oats, which get creamy and perfect and crunchy when you boil them in 2X as much water as oats, stirring, simmering, and finally, leaving them covered to let them absorb the rest of the water.

True story: I have never seen Irish oatmeal in Santiago, except in my own kitchen, when I had imported it. But I have seen whole oats. And that got me to thinking.

However, with the new hypervigilant SAG rules, I knew that importing Irish oats was going to be a hassle, that they'd probably take them away from me, and I would cry the cry of the sad and breakfast-free.

Enter the coffee grinder. Yeah, I cleaned it out (mostly), though what's the harm in a little Sumatra in your brekkie? I was going to drink coffee anyway (and have). I pulsed the whole (mostly peeled) oats a bunch in the coffee grinder, until it was part powder and part little broken oats and cooked it as indicated above.

It may not be exactly how the Irish would do it (in spite of my name, I am not actually Irish, so how would I know anyway), but it was darn close, and tasty. Creamy, crunchy and hearty. Some people pour cream or milk in (I have been known to, but did not today), and I hear sugar's all the rage in oatmeal, but that just makes me say bleck, so I skipped it.

So gringuitas (and the occasional gringo) and expats the world over... What have you invented to fill a craving?


Katie said...

I applaud you for your ingenuity. I never would have thought to make Irish oatmeal using a coffee grinder.

I have learned to make a number of foods from scratch that I previously purchased ready-made for my dining pleasure including, but not limited to, the following: Ranch and blue cheese dressings, flour tortillas, chili powder, colored sugar for decorating cookies, and Philly soft pretzels.

For my next trick, I'm considering making my own Italian sausage. Thank goodness I'm a foodie.

Thorn Monroe said...

We eat oatmeal most weekday mornings and I had noticed it's rather unpleasant texture- I'll have to give Irish Oatmeal a try.
This probably doesn't count since I'm not an expat but since I've stopped eating meat but still crave sushi and all the stuff that goes with it, I started making rolls using cream cheese, avocado, cucumbers, and scallions.

Richard said...

I am impressed the kernels didn't destroy your grinder. You must have one with teeth of... erm... steel. Nothing wrong with a bit of coffee in your oatmeal - i've certainly heard of stranger (bananas in your cornflakes anyone?)

I once made pina coladas using an actual coconut from a tree in Mozambique. They are tougher than they look, those coconuts - I still have the nicks in the blade of my knife. Also, unlike your oatmeal, the end result was absolutely nothing like an old-fashioned, bar-produced, food processed cocktail.

Having invested an hour in making it though, I drank it anyway.

Clare said...

I have learned to make garam masala from scratch--- aka cook a bunch of spices and blend them in my coffee grinder.

I also have done hummus-- you know, cooking and shucking chick peas, inventing ways to replace tahini (I combine, plain yogurt (not brand name Activa) with cumin and olive oil sometimes with a touch of peanut butter).

Pam said...

Those Irish oats that you miss are what I eat for brekkie nearly every day in the winter. I make mine with raisins and hazelnuts.

And now, I am mentally filing this away so that when the day comes that I skip off to Santiago, I will say to myself "PACK OATS FOR EILEEN!" and then, I will hope they make it through customs.

Annje said...

You don't put sugar in your oats? I can't get past that...

I have only ground coffee in my grinder, but I know you can grind all kinds of things... isn't it kind of small for making oats though? Did you have to do like 20gridning sessions for a full bowl?

I am actually kind of partial... (embarassed hesitation) to quick oats (gasp!) Isn't that so processed of me?

Eileen said...

Katie, you are SO a foodie. I can't wait for the eventual vegetarian Argentine feast we'll whip up. I can be very helpful!

Thorn, your opinion totally counts. Need not be an expat to participate, and veggie sushi is delish. Mmmm, oshinko.

Richard, really? I grind all kinds of things in the grinder, and they seem to work out find. Next time I'll try fishtank gravel (kidding).

Clare, really? no tahini? this is tragic! I make it sometimes with sesame seeds and sesame oil and a lot of scraping and patience (ha! no patience!). I would never have thought of yogurt!

Pam, No! you could get caught and get fined! My solution seems to be working for now, and it's much cheaper, though I do worry the oats may not be intended for human consumption. If anyone sees a glow coming out of my apt. window at night, please advise.

Annje, I'm not a fan of sweet, mushy and warm, never have been. I can stomach the oats plain or with a sprinkle of salt, but if there's sugar in them, I'm lost (though Pam's idea of the hazelnuts sounds pretty good, for three months of the year we can get hazelnuts, and not chilean avellanas, which NADA QUE VER). And also, eat whatever oats you like, it's a personal choice! And 1/2 a cup of oats fit in my grinder and in the pot, bowl and stomach, in that order, so nope, it seems to have worked out just fine!

For everyone: I really like cross-purposing kitchen implements. Please let me know what else you'd like to see in the coffee grinder and I'll do what I can!

Fly Girl said...

Sigh. As I put way the instant Quaker Oats raisin and walnut oatmeal that I had trained myself to like despite the texture, I am blaming you. The only place to get Irish oatmeal, which I love, is the Whole Foods which is far, far, away. Okay, its 10 blocks but I have to walk and there is the typical Chicago blizzard with snow and below zero temps brewing outside. So I won't be eating any satisfying breakfast today. Thanks Eileen.

Margaret said...

Great idea Eileen! I've never been all that big on oatmeal for the very gloppiness of it, but it is so incredibly healthy that I eat it anyway--and I'll definitely get back to my roots and try the Irish version the next time I get close enough to them. In the meantime, I'll give your method a try! Of course for anyone sans grinder (gasp) a simple blender or food processor would also do the trick.

Actually I use my coffee grinder much more as a spice grinder, although I've noticed that some of the spices (usually those that go into Indian-style dishes)have some kind of corrosive element that has tarnished and even rusted my grinder (but a little rust won't hurt me-right?)
And Clare- are you in Chile? You can DEFINITELY get tahini here! There are plenty of places for middle-eastern supplies and I've even bought it in Jumbo!
On sweet- I go with a bit of salt (in the cooking) AND a light sprinkle of brown sugar... although raisins are a nice touch too.

Eileen said...

Margaret, I dream of a mortar and pestle (and a bigger kitchen to put it in) to grind spices. Oh, and the willingness to spend that much time on food. I used to use the coffee grinder to make oat flour for some scones I made, but the mini food processor works just as well. My mini food processor would probably not work as well for spices or whole oats though, because there's too much clearance between the blades and the sides (yes, I've thought about this), and I love all Moulinex spinny things, both work quite well.

Farsightedflygirl, I am so sorry that I have ruined your breakfast. Truly! Maybe you could mail-order some steel cut oats? They might be easier to come by then. And sorry about the weather, though I suppose it's just part of the deal for Chicago!

Michelle said...

As I think you know, we have 2 coffee grinders -- one for coffee, one for spices.

As for instant oats, I find they're good RAW mixed with canned fruit or applesauce. In fact, it's my work snack today! I cannot stand them cooked the typical way. But, steel cut oats are DIVINE.

Eileen said...

Michelle, I did not know about your double grinder situation, but you guys do have a well-stocked kitchen, so I guess I'm not surprised.

Also, once again, food twins. I love raw oats (usually eat trad'l, not instant) mixed into trail mix, etc. Or toasted they are good, too. Just keep them away from water, and all is good!

Margaret said...

Raw oats (yeah, go for the real thing) are also great on fresh fruit and mixed into yogurt (or both!)

Anonymous said...

YUM! I wonder if I could get whole oats here? I love Irish oatmeal, esp with brown sugar. I use my coffee grinder for coffee, spices, nuts, etc. and man did my husband gripe the day after I'd ground cloves and you could taste a certain special something in the coffee :)
I have learned to make all sorts of things from scratch. Everything from bagels to tortillas to salsa to salad dressing. Chili powder. Evaporated milk. Cooking with fresh yeast instead of dried. Barbecue sauce. (At least I don't have to make my own ketchup.) Oh and now we have root beer extract so we're making our own root beer--sort of. I can make ginger ale but I've only done it once. Hummus, yes, but with bought tahini. But not falafel...that takes DAYS.

Still Life in Southeast Asia said...

I think a little coffee taste in your oatmeal after using your grinder would be good.

I have never been as adventurous as Katie in creating foods to satisfy my cravings. However, wine is so expensive here that I might consider fermenting my own grapes. I may just have to quit cold turkey for a while.