In this week's The Willowbee Tree story, “Graces”, Little Ty is very silly during dinnertime grace, and Clancy doesn't like it. When the two brothers go through the hole in the magical Willow Tree, they are transported to the highlands of Scotland, long ago—where nothing is attempted without a lovely prayer of honor. A Scottish hare, two badger brothers, and a red kite inspire the boys to remember the importance of saying thanks.
On a chilly, damp spring day, there's nothing that makes me want to say “thanks” more than a pipping hot bowl of oatmeal. And if you make it like the Scots do, there's no need to limit it to breakfast time.
“Skirlie”, or savory Scottish oatmeal, makes a stick-to-your-ribs meal for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
A cousin to Italian risotto, skirlie starts with fragrant onions and toasted oats. From there, you can add about any odds and ends you have knocking around in your fridge. In the version below, I've picked a few seasonal spring ingredients, but treat those as a starting place. Additionally, my family does better with a little protein, so we like to top our skirlie with a fried egg. It's optional, but delicious!
If you're celebrating Screen Free Week, this would be an easy, warming dinner after a good, long spring hike through the highlands. Or maybe even after just a trek around your block.
2 tablespoons butter
½ large onion, diced (about ⅔ cup diced onion)
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
About 5 sprigs of thyme, leaves stripped
32 ounces chicken stock
2 big handfuls fresh spinach
⅔ cup frozen peas
salt and pepper, to taste
⅓ cup chopped pistachios
1 fried egg for each portion (optional)
In a large skillet with high sides and a lid, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the diced onion, and let it cook until it starts to get soft and translucent. Then, add the oats, stirring to combine them with the butter and onions. Allow the oats to toast—stirring frequently—for about five minutes.
When the oats begin to smell toasty and delicious, add the thyme leaves and the chicken stock. Turn up the heat to bring the skirlie to a bubble. Stirring frequently, let it cook there for about 3 minutes, or until you get a clear wake when you drag your spoon through the pan.
Return the heat to low, and add the spinach, stirring to combine. Put the lid on the pot, and allow it to simmer until the spinach wilts into the oats. Then take the whole pan off the heat, and stir in the frozen peas. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
Let the pan sit, covered, while you fry one egg for each person you intend to serve. Scoop the skirlie into bowls, sprinkle some chopped pistachios on each portion, and top with an egg.
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About the Author
The Sparkle Kitchen Series is created by Meryl Carver-Allmond.
Meryl lives in a hundred-year-old house near the prairie with her sweet husband, two preschoolers, one puppy, one gecko, and about ten chickens. While she's been writing since she could pick up a pen, in recent years she's discovered the joy of photography, too. She feels lucky to be able to combine those skills, along with a third passion — showing people that cooking for themselves can be healthy and fun — in her Sparkle Kitchen posts.