Bowled over by a different class of porridge

Top-notch steel-cut Irish oats that are notoriously tricky to track down

Recently, my 94-year-old neighbour inFrance – the wife of a former diplomat and a woman of very specific tastes– charged me with a very important task: tracking down a tin of her favouriteporridge, John McCann’s Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal.

“It’s expensive,” she said, “and verydifficult to find.” She was correct on both counts. I’d never heard ofMcCann’s, even if it had been selling superior porridge oats for over150 years. Nor did I understand the significance of “steel cut”.

But curious to see what the fuss was allabout – it is billed as “the finest oatmeal in the world” – I combed the foodhalls of leading London department stores and gourmet food specialists in pursuitof this top-notch porridge. Finally, I bought two 793g tins (£8.95 each) from the Harvey Nichols website.

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Full disclosure: until this point, myfavourite kind of porridge (please don’t judge me) was a bowl ofchocolate-flavoured Ready Brek. But I figured that, at the very least, McCann’sgloriously old-fashioned gold, white and navy tin would look good on thekitchen shelf.

Steel-cut oats, I discovered, are wholegrain, high in fibre and nutritionally superior to the rolled variety, which hasbeen steamed, softened and rolled in order to make it quicker to cook.Steel-cut oats require 30 minutes of simmering, but, as I found, have abetter texture and a delicious, nutty flavour. They are especially goodsweetened with a little maple syrup and sprinkled with some chopped walnuts.

The health gurus, I’m sure, would lookmore approvingly on my bowl of slow-cooked McCann’s oats than the quick-fixchocolate-flavoured kind. My neighbour, meanwhile, was delighted that I’dtracked down her favourite midnight snack.

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