What better way to gain the energy to carry you through a hectic morning than a steaming bowl of freshly cooked oatmeal. Oats, known scientifically as Avena sativa, are a hardy cereal able to withstand poor soil conditions.

The modern oat draws its ancestry from the wild red oat, a plant originating in Asia. Before being consumed as a food, oats were used for medicinal purposes.

Buy small quantities of oats at a time since this grain has a slightly higher fat content than other grains and will go rancid quickly. Oats are generally available in pre-packaged containers; ensure that it should be free from debris. Smell the oats to make sure that they are fresh. Whether purchasing oats in bulk or in a container, make sure there is no evidence of moisture.

If you purchase prepared oatmeal products such as oatmeal, look at the ingredients to ensure that the product does not contain any salt, sugar or other additives.

Store oatmeal in an airtight container in a cool, dry and dark place where they will keep for approximately two months.

Generally oats are cooked by adding the oats to cold water and then cooking at simmer. The preparation of rolled oats and steel-cut oats requires similar proportions using two parts of water to one part of oats. Rolled oats take approximately 15 minutes to cook while the steel-cut variety takes about 30 minutes.

Nutritional value

These small grains are an excellent source of manganese and a very good source of selenium, and also a good source of vitamin B1, dietary fiber, magnesium, protein and phosphorus

Oats, oat bran, and oatmeal contain a specific type of fibre known as beta-glucan, for which study after study has proven the beneficial effects of this special fibre on cholesterol levels. Beta-glucan not only helps neutrophils (the most abundant type of non-specific immune cell) navigate to the site of an infection more quickly; it also enhances their ability to eliminate the bacteria they find there.

When a day is started with a blood sugar stabilizing food such as oats they make it easier to keep blood sugar levels under control the rest of the day, especially when the rest of your day is also supported with nourishing fibre-rich foods. Now, for a recipe.

Special Oats Idli

Ingredients

Oats: half a cup

Suji (semolina): half a cup

Yoghurt: 1 cup

Water: half cup (approximately)

Salt as required

Ghee for greasing

Method: Grind oats to make a powder and keep it aside. Put oats powder, suji, yoghurt and salt in a bowl and beat the mixture well. Add enough water to make a smooth batter of thick yet slightly pouring consistency. Keep the idli batter aside for 15-20 minutes. Boil 2 cups of water in a cooker and grease the idli stand. Put 2 tbsp of batter in each idli cup. Place the idli stand in boiling water and place the lid. Cook on steam for about 15mins on medium flame. Remove the idlis and serve hot.

Serving tip: Tastes good with coconut chutney and sambar.