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Jun 9, 2009 02:53 PM

Making Parkin - what is medium oatmeal?

I'm planning to make Parkin from a british cookbook I have and it calls for 350g of medium oatmeal. Googling it leads me to believe that medium oatmeal is a coarse ground oat flour. Can I take steel-cut oats and grind them in my food processor to create something close to medium oatmeal? I'd rather not buy it over the internet, as I have rolled oats and steel-cut oats. Can either of these be transformed into medium oatmeal? TIA for any advice.

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  1. you definitely CANNOT grind steel-cut oats and end up with anything close to what you need - they have to be steam-treated and flattened to even approach the right form/consistency.

    you can, however, give the *rolled* oats a whirl in the FP to break them down into a coarse oat flour.

    1 Reply
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

      thanks, I'll give it a try with rolled oats.

    2. Medium oatmeal is basically porridge oats. My Mum used to make parkin all the time and I think that's what she used. Not sure what steel-cut oats are to be honest - we don't have them in the UK.

      4 Replies
      1. re: greedygirl

        Steel-cut oats are Irish oatmeal; McCann's is the imported brand that's most available in the US, though there are others, and we can buy them in bulk at many shops.

        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

          Irish oatmeal? None the wiser, I'm afraid!

        2. re: greedygirl

          the great divide! what are porridge oats? are they rolled oats, or finer than rolled oats?

          1. re: janniecooks

            They're generally rolled oats, but the finer kind rather than what we call "jumbo" oats. Who knew that oats could be so complicated!

        3. I must differ with previous posters. Oatmeal is ground oats. Nothing to do with rolled oats. Think cornmeal, except it's oats. A product like this:

          I think the varieties (and virtues) of the oat are well defined at

          I don't know about Parkin, but I have Scottish family recipes that call for oatmeal (they called it 'standard oatmeal' and were doing their cooking in Nova Scotia). I have had reasonable success buzzing up steel-cut oats in the coffee grinder. I didn't think the food processor would have the power and I wasn't dealing with a huge quantity.

          Perhaps I am alone in flinching when someone refers to a breakfast of cooked rolled or steel-cut oats as a bowl of oatmeal. What they're eating is, of course, porridge.

          5 Replies
          1. re: poundcake

            I agree with poundcake. Ive had parkin in scotland, and it is made with medium ground, or "pinhead" oats, i.e. oat MEAL. The bakeries I bought my parkin (here it was in the shape of cookies) from sold several grades of ground oats from a local mill. for baking and breakfast use (as well as for inclusion in the famous haggis.

            Most likely you can use your irish/steelcut oats in the recipe (they are referred to as pinhead sometimes - or perhaps better grind them a bit as above. They will have a chance to absorb moisture in the baking,and in fact some parkin recipes include a soaking of the oats. I do not think that rolled oats are appropriate for this recipe.

            1. re: jen kalb

              okay, thanks jen and poundcake. my first inclination after seeing the pics on the web were to grind pinhead or steelcut oats a bit finer than as packaged; the photo of the parkin shows little oatmeal colored bits throughout, so clearly a flour is not called for, but my instinct was that rolled oats weren't the right thing either.

              and BTW the first site I visited was the BBC site which was helpful, but...i was hoping to avoid purchasing oatmeal when I have steelcut oats on hand.

              So i'll give it a go by grinding my steel-cut oats. thanks again.

              1. re: jen kalb

                are a couple of cookie like parkin/perkin recipes.
                The first (Aberdeenshire) have the similar ginger molasses taste to the Yorkshire version.

                As to the optimal oats to use, I prefer thick rolled oats lightly chopped in a coffee/spice mill (I have one solely for that purpose). The RedMill Scottish Oats are similar, but much more expensive, and the steel cut oats commonly available in the USA are too coarse to use directly in baked goods like this - unless you like to pick bits out of your teeth.

                When making scones or pancakes I soak the oats in buttermilk to soften them a bit, but it may not matter much in parkin with a much longer baking time.

              2. re: poundcake

                This is totally misleading. Only the finest ground oatmeal has the slightest resemblance to cornmeal. Putting your oats in the coffee grinder is not only cruelty to coffee grinders (and oats) but is not necessary. Your comment about porridge is also, unfortunately, incorrect. There is no "true" definition of how the oats should be in porridge. For example, the typical nutritious mix would be mostly medium oatmeal mixed with coarse oatmeal, or rolled or steel-cut oatmeal, for interest and some finer ground oatmeal for a creamier finish. So, it is perfectly accurate to refer to a bowl of porridge as a bowl of oatmeal. Rolled and steel-cut oats are derived from coarse oatmeal, so there is a link.

                Finally, the bottom line is that using porridge oats as medium oatmeal for baking is a perfectly acceptable compromise if you don't have access to the full gamut of oats. I can testify that it gives delicious results in parkin and very authentic, healthy Scots oatcakes. You can experiment with different brands of porridge oats (they vary enormously), but the best results will come from those using oats from Scotland (they mature slowly, because of the weather, giving a richer flavour) and most definitely not instant oats (these are pre-cooked, reducing the nutritional value and flavour). When it comes down to it, what matters is not rigid adherence to imaginary definitions, but does it taste great!

              3. Okay, so I made the Parkin yesterday. While I had originally planned to grind up the steel-cut oats I had on hand, I decided that grinding 350g of oats in my little-bitty coffee/spice grinder was too much work. My local market had Bob's Red Mill "scottish oatmeal" which looked liked it might be close to the medium oatmeal the recipe called for, so I bought it. The recipe used about 75% of the bag so I don't have too much remaining.

                As for the parkin, it does seem that I chose the right product, but I doubt I'll make this again. It is a very heavy, even leaden, tea cake. Not too sweet, but very dense. A slight gingerbread flavor from the molasses, brown sugar and ginger, but not overt. The cake rose incredibly, and I think the amount of batter was a bit too much for the 8-inch tin the recipe called for. But it rose straight up, extending about 1/2" up above the pan edge, looked pretty cool while it was baking.

                Also the Parkin uses Lyle's Golden Syrup. This is the second time I've used golden syrup, and it is a sticky gooey mess. I don't plan on using it again--it imparts a crispiness to the baked good that borders on hard. Don't care for it.

                Making parkin was a good kitchen experiment, but the cake is not to our taste.

                Many thanks to you all for your good advice. You're a wonderful resource!

                10 Replies
                1. re: janniecooks

                  jannie, i don't know if this will help with the crisp/hard texture, but the Parkin recipes i've read suggest keeping it stored in an airtight container for at least a few days before eating to allow it to soften...?

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    Delia says, "Real oatmeal parkin is unbeatable, but do make sure you leave it at least a week before eating – that way it will become much more moist and sticky than when it was first cooked. Originally it was kept in proper wooden parkin boxes, but nowadays a tin will do instead."


                    1. re: Gio

                      To Gio and GHG, THANK YOU! That 'splains things! The recipe I used, which I first noticed in a recently published book on British cooking (something like The Beautiful Foods of Britian) and then found in a british cookbook I already had, both said that it should be kept in an airtight container and that the flavor will improve after being stored for a week. Neither book mentioned the texture improving as well, but now that you bring it up that makes sense. So perhaps I shall hold judgment for a week.

                      One question though, do you think it should be refrigerated, and do you think wrapping it in heavy-duty foil, tightly, is sufficient for "air tight container"? TIA.

                      1. re: janniecooks

                        If it's too sticky to wrap in plastic wrap first... I guess the HD aluminum foil alone might be OK. Just make sure to get it as "airtight" as possible, perhaps in several wrappings. I think that if the cake was meant to be refregerated as well Delia, especially...LOL.. would have said so.

                        1. re: Gio

                          i'd say wrap in foil first, then pack the foil-wrapped tin in a heavy-duty zipper bag.

                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            I like your idea of packing the cake in a hd ziploc bag. May try that! thanks.

                    2. re: janniecooks

                      I have some Red Mill Steel Cut oat that are supposed to cook in 10 minutes. I suspect they would work well in parkin.

                      1. re: janniecooks

                        If you are interested in a ginger bread that is sweeter, richer, ginger-ier, and even stickier, look up some threads on Gramercy Tavern Ginger Bread. It includes a heavy beer (like stout). For example, from last year

                        1. re: paulj

                          Good suggestion. I had planned on making this sometime, perhaps after I've tried the aged parkin and it's gone, I'll try the Gramercy Tavern Ginger Bread. I had followed that thread, and it's in my favorites!

                      2. I've been making parkin for a couple of years. I discovered it via a Lyle's recipe, though I've also found web sites with multiple recipes. I've just used rolled oats. It never occurred to me that cut or coarsely ground might be more authentic. If substituting one for the other, it is best to work by weight, not volume. Most of the recipes I've looked at used equal parts (by weight) of wheat flour and oats.

                        Looking again at the Lyle's recipe
                        I see it calls for 'medium oatmeal'. As an American, 'oatmeal' means rolled oats, especially after cooking, though I am familiar with cut oats.

                        I've just used molasses, no golden syrup (nearly as much by weight as oats).

                        Right after baking, the oats can still be hard and undercooked, especially if using thicker rolled oats. This also true if the uncooked batter is on the stiff side. With storage the moisture is redistributed and the oats soften. I've tried storing it wrapped for a week or more before use, but the temptation to eat it is too great. Mostly I just keep it in a well-sealing plastic container.

                        Sometimes I've added an egg, which helps reduce the initial crumbliness. Dry shredded coconut adds a nice touch, one that is consistent with the coarse texture of the oats. Since it has so much molasses ( black treacle) I don't see the point in using brown sugar - I just use white. As with any gingerbread recipe, the ginger flavor can be increased with more powder (or even fresh or candied forms).

                        The high rise that one person noted comes from the reaction of the molasses with the baking soda. But because of the high oat ratio, it does not keep that height.

                        Another hint - line the baking pan (8x8 for most recipes) with parchment paper. It comes out easily, already half wrapped for storage.