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  • Writer's pictureSuzanne Sng

Savoury steel-cut oats, three ways

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

I have hated oatmeal since I was forced to eat it for breakfast as a child. I used to call it regurgitated cardboard — slimy, mushy, bland. Eeeeuw, gross. Then I discovered steel-cut oats and made them savoury. Life was never the same again. Here are three variations: (above, clockwise from left) steel-cut oats with sunny-side-up, gomasio, mirin-soya sauce and spring onions; curried oats with caramelised onions and chickpeas; and oat “risotto” with pecorino and peas.

Unlike rolled oats, which obviously are rolled flat, steel-cut oats are cut (by steel, duh!) into tiny bits, take longer to cook and remain chewy after cooking.

Most recipes call for the oats to be stirred on the stove for 30 minutes, but seriously, who has that kind of time? I found some suggestions to add boiling water to the oats and let the pot stand overnight, but that just sounded like a recipe for a tummy ache, even if the slurry was reheated in the morning. I decided to go with the oven route: Just pop 1/4 cup of oats with 3/4 cup of water into an oven-proof dish, add a pinch of salt, cover and into the oven for 35 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius. (Note: This is for a single serving. I made a double portion by doubling the oats and water, and it took 45 minutes before all the water was absorbed.) Stir once about 10 minutes before it is done. Remove from oven, test that it is al dente and add toppings (see below). Eat immediately. Cold oatmeal is an atrocity.

Serves 1

Steel-cut oats with sunny-side-up, gomasio, mirin-soy sauce and spring onions


  • 1/4 cup steel-cut oats

  • 1/2 cup soya sauce

  • 1/4 mirin

  • Juice of half a lemon

  • Strips of lemon peel

  • 1 thinly sliced shallot

  • 1 thinly sliced chilli padi

  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar

  • 1 egg

  • Gomasio (seaweed or furikake will work too)

  • Spring onion

While the oats are in the oven, fry an egg. I’m not giving you a recipe or directions for that.

In a small sauce pan, make the sauce with all the ingredients except the oats, egg, gomasio and spring onions. Bring to a boil and then let it reduce for a little bit, 10 to 15 minutes. You will need only 1 to 2 tablespoons of the sauce, so refrigerate the rest in a bottle. I have kept it for a week without any problems. It goes great with seared tuna, cold tofu and even as a salad dressing.

If you are too lazy to make the sauce, soya sauce mixed with mirin or ponzu sauce would work as well, just that the flavours would not be so complex.

When the oats are done, top it with a generous sprinkle of gomasio, spring onions, the egg and the sauce. Stir well.

Curried oats with caramelised onions and chickpeas


  • 1/4 cup steel-cut oats

  • 1 teaspoon curry powder

  • 400 grams canned chickpeas (you will have leftovers)

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 2 onions

To make the curried oats, add curry powder to the oats 10 minutes before it is done and stir to mix.

While your oats are in the oven, you might as well roast some chickpeas. Open a can, drain the water, rinse, dry with paper towels and place the chickpeas on a tray in a single layer with a bit of olive oil. When the oats are done, so are the chickpeas.

Caramelised onions do take a bit of time and patience, but the results are so worth it. Not for nothing are they called the bacon of vegetarians. Simply slice two onions and fry them with 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium-high heat in a pan that is large enough for the slices to be in a thin layer (ie. not piled up and steaming instead of frying).

Stir every five minutes or so, making sure to scrape the bottom for the yummy burnt bits. The onions are done when they are a rich brown colour. Some bits will be crispy while others will be soft.

If you have any self-restraint at all, you will save half the onions for other uses, such as in a pasta sauce.

Top the oatmeal with the chickpeas and caramelised onions.

Oat “risotto” with pecorino and peas


  • 1/4 cup steel-cut oats

  • Handful of frozen peas (or frozen corn or carrots, or a mix)

  • Large mound of grated pecorino cheese

Add frozen peas (as much as you like, about a handful) to the oats during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Grate the pecorino cheese (again, as much as you like).

When the oats are done, stir in the cheese and add pepper to taste. I swear, it is creamy like risotto — but without the need to slave over a hot stove. Best!

Bonus quick non-recipe: Oat-tah


Place frozen otah in the same oven-proof dish as the oats and water, and pop it into the oven. The otah will defrost as the oats cook and be ready at the same time. Mash the otah into the oats to make oat-tah.

I do not have a photo of this revolting-sounding dish, but trust me. It is one of the dishes I miss most now that I have no ready access to otah, frozen or otherwise.

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