Wikipedia calls 'em groats, but the Scots call 'em gruts (GRUTS. Groats: hulled, or hulled and crushed, grain, usually oats but sometimes wheat, barley or maize. Glasse, 1747). Ivor Cutler immortalized them in Gruts For Tea.
Okay, so plain old cooked groats must be porridge, right? Or is it gruel? According to the Online Etymology Dictionary porridge dates back to 1532, and was used to describe a "soup of meat and vegetables," and became associated with oatmeal in the 17th century in Scotland; while gruel pre-dates porridge by some 400 years and is derived from the Frankish 'grut (cf. M.Du. grute "coarse meal, malt;" M.H.G. gruz "grain").' Confused yet?
In Scotland groats are pretty much used to make oatmeal, is the way I see it, while in the Black Country of England oat groats are commonly used to make Groaty Pudding, a mixture of soaked groats, leeks and beef. In Eastern Europe and Russia groats appear as Kasha, which is now commonly used to refer to roasted buckwheat groats.
For some unfathomable reason I became obsessed with the idea of making Groaty Pudding. I also had the sense that nobody in my household would be too thrilled by the prospect, so I waited until Jack was away visiting family in England and my daughter was at her Dad's.
There are a lot of recipes out there for Groaty Pudding, if you look, and a lot of commentary, too. I found a wide range of advice. Some people soak the groats and some don't. Some use water and some use beef stock. Some use only leeks and some use leeks and onions. Some add a bay leaf and some don't. Some call for "shin beef" (flank steak in America) and some for stew beef. Some cook for as little as 3 hours and some for as long as 16. Nearly all of the recipes helpfully suggest looking for oat groats in a pet store if you can't find them elsewhere. Nobody suggests browning the meat first, and quite a few specifically warn against doing so. The most entertaining discussion is here and also contains the following instructions:
"Take 8 oz groats and soak overnight. In a crock stew jar, layer the groats with 8 oz stew beef and 8 oz leeks. Add water to just cover. Put lid on and place in slow oven for 8 hours."
Hmmm, I thought, so I can probably do this in a slow cooker, then.
Well. Let me tell you that finding oat groats is a challenge, and I was not entirely successful. The first shop I went to had nothing even close, so I bought some farro, figuring I could get inventive if needed. The second shop had pearled barley, so I bought that too. The last shop had steel cut oats (Irish Oatmeal), and I figured that was as close as I was going to get. Then I bought leeks, onions and flank steak and then I died carrying it all up the five flights of stairs to my apartment.
I contemplated my collection of grains. Steel cut oats are groats that have have been cut into two or three pieces using steel discs, so I knew I'd have to cut down on the cooking time, and I worried that the dish would be mushy. Pearled barley is close in size (I think) to whole groats, but then I wouldn't really be making Groaty Pudding, would I? So I stuck with the steel cut oats, though I did have a fear that I'd end up with beefy oatmeal.
Now, let me just say that I really need to create a new category called "Bad Ideas" because I ended up with beefy oatmeal. A LOT of beefy oatmeal. It was edible. With a lot of salt and pepper. There's a lot left, though. I'm thinking I can try to give it to my son, who eats anything,
A truly dedicated cook would try it again with proper whole oat groats. I know that. Um, but... see, the thought of ending up with a huge amount of beefy oatmeal again is just not to be contemplated. It really, really isn't.