Something that I’m enjoying lately is a slightly more savoury bowl of oatmeal, rather than one loaded with fruit, which is the norm for me most mornings. My sweet tooth has wained over the last week or so, oddly, which makes me a little nervous that I’m coming down with something. Or, maybe my palate is just looking for a change with the new season, if that’s possible. In addition to being turned off by fresh fruit for the last couple of days, I’ve also been unable to bring myself to bake this holiday, and when I tried, I burnt the damn cookies. So, I’m skipping the sweets today for a Danish-inspired, savoury-leaning breakfast bowl.
A couple of new ingredients that appeared in my pantry this holiday were pumpkin seed oil and birch syrup. Time for a little ingredient briefing.
Pumpkin seed oil: A deep evergreen colour, with an extremely nutty aroma and taste. Blend pumpkin seed oil with olive oil for a salad dressing, top kabocha squash with a streak, swirl into yogurt, or drizzle onto creamy hummus. Pumpkin seed oil also happens to be high in plant-based omega-3 fatty acids. (If I’m so in love with pumpkin seed oil, why don’t I just marry it, you say? I would if I could. I would if I could.)
Birch syrup: Similar in hue and taste to molasses, but much thinner. Birch syrup is made from tapping birch trees and processed the same way maple syrup is. When making maple syrup, 40 gallons of maple sap makes 1 gallon of syrup; birch syrup requires 80+ gallons of birch sap to make 1 gallon of syrup. Once reduced, the syrup is rich in B-vitamins and minerals, specifically iron (although, you’d have to eat a lot of it to get much of a benefit, which I couldn’t see myself doing, as it’s a bit strong and… it’s sugar). Produced most often in Scandinavia, Northern Canada, and Alaska, it’s not easy to come by in bulk, but there are other regions getting in on the action. Another birch sweetener that’s popular right now (yet completely dissimilar) is xylitol, which I never use, as its extraction process is unkind to the environment. Xylitol is often a by-product of the pulp and paper industry, and isn’t limited to just birch––corn, nut shells, and wood chips are all used to make it as well. (And that’s my environmental rant for the month.)
Both pumpkin seed oil and birch syrup are decidedly unsweet drizzles that pair exceptionally well with my new-favourite, savoury-sweet condiment: Booster Topping. My Booster Topping combines walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and coconut flakes, all toasted until aromatic and a little bit sun-kissed. I’ve used the topping on salads and as the crunch-factor on a bowl of brown rice––delicious.
This oatmeal was served on Christmas day, which itself had a bit of a Scandinavian theme. I, like a few of my family members across the country, even made risalamande (Danish rice pudding) from a family recipe for dessert.
And, because it was Christmas day, a special-food kind of day, I brought out the juicer (which was dusty from me not using it for the last 6 months). Freshly pressed juice is really very delicious, but cleaning it is truly a bitch. I would say I’ll juice more in the new year, but… no. Of course, the juice isn’t a requisite part of this recipe, but the buttermilk these oats are served with is, adding a healthy dose of probiotics and a whole lotta zip to the dish. I found a particularly charming brand with two cows kissing on the front of the carton, which I’m sure somehow enhanced the taste of the final product––a delectable, edible bias.
A few notes on substitutions: If you can’t find birch syrup, maple syrup (will make it much sweeter though) or molasses will work. If pumpkin seed oil is hard to come by, flaxseed, toasted almond, hazelnut, walnut, or hempseed oil will all add the richness you’re after.
Wishing you all a happy new year full of healthy breakfasts and a live-in personal dishwasher to hand-wash your juicer.
- 1 cup steel cut oats
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 cup walnuts, chopped
- ½ cup unsweetened coconut chips or flakes
- ⅓ cup pumpkin seeds
- 6 to 8 dried figs, sliced
- Birch syrup
- Pumpkin seed oil
- Buttermilk, well-shaken
- Make the oats: In a large pot, bring oats, salt, and 4 cups water to a boil, reduce to medium, and cook, uncovered, for 25 minutes, stirring once or twice. Lower temperature nearing end of cooking time to avoid splatters, if necessary.
- Make the Booster Topping: In a large skillet, add walnuts, coconut, and pumpkin seeds. Toast over medium for 1 to 2 minutes, until fragrant and beginning to brown (watch carefully to avoid burning coconut). Transfer to a bowl and cool before storing in an airtight container or jar in the pantry or refrigerator for up to 2 months.
- To serve: Divide cooked oats evenly between 4 bowls. Top with Booster Topping, dried figs, and a drizzle of birch syrup and pumpkin seed oil. Serve with buttermilk.