Uuniohrapuuro (Baked Barley Porridge)

(or, as Monty Python gang used to say, “And Now for Something Completely Different” — a minor break from my usual CS/Java writing)

Background: dissing my ethnic food roots

Over time, a few colleagues and friends in US have asked me about Finnish cuisine: what is it like, what are the good dishes etc. I have tended to answer along the lines of the (in)famous Churchill’s quote on Royal Navy (“rum and sodomy”), suggesting that Finnish food tradition consists mostly of variations meat and potatoes with a strong undercurrent of underseasoning.

While there is some truth to that quip, I have grown to realize over time that there are many things from my heritage that I do appreciate, like, and pine for. Even the ascetic, bare nature of many dishes — due to lack of natural riches in the northern latitudes; mostly having time for slow bake — feels like a good counterbalance for sometimes overbearing complexity of other dishes.

Over time I have slowly started expanding my cooking repertoire to contain more traditional Finnish cooking: both for my own sake, and to help my children learn bit more about their heritage, above and beyond what they get to observe on our biennial trips to visit grandparents (besides, one quirk of Finnish hospitality is that there is the tendency to offer latest fashionable new things [generally from Mediterranean cuisine] as delicacies — and not so much traditional domestic fare).

Good stuff from Finnish Kitchen

Now, while there are many categories of food items that I would consider quintessentially Finnish, I feel that grain/cereal groups — baked goods (in particular breads) and porridges — are probably the biggest thing I actually miss.

While I really miss the sour rye bread (see, f.ex this post or this) — as well as all lighter varieties of oat and barley-flour based breads! (believe it or not but oat/carrot bread is delicious) — those are not necessarily easy things to start with, so I have not experimented that much with bread making (my wife has, with reasonably results… but she can write her own blogs if she so chooses :) ).

But porridges are dead easy to prepare. They are also cheap to make; very few, inexpensive ingredients. And if that wasn’t enough, they are quite healthy (unless you have specific health problems with cereals included) — typically considered an essential part of classic Finnish breakfast.
And, once you acquire the taste, they are even tasty.

So, let’s have a look at one easy, healthy, tasty — but for some reason, somewhat forgotten even in Finland — porridge: Uuniohrapuuro (literally “Ovenbarleyporridge” but probably idiomatically “Baked Barley Porridge”).
This is the thing I most often make for Sunday morning family breakfasts.

Uuniohrapuuro a la Cowtowncoder

Ok, first the disclaimer: you can find the recipe for “uuniohrapuuro” easily (f.ex, here, in Finnish, or here in English [but this one has timing kind of off[)— there are 2 basic variants depending on baking time — and this is not really “my” recipe in that sense. But of ones I have tried, this seems to work well and so I can vouch for it at least. :)

Uuniohrapuuro: Ingredients

When I say that the ingredient list is simple, I mean it. Minimally, you need:

although even more fundamentally, it’s just pearl barley and liquid that is absolutely required: fat and salt are for additional flavor. :)


Uuniohrapuuro: instructions

With these ingredients, surely the steps must be complicated and demanding?

No such luck. Here is the most complicated version I can think of:

On step (4), we have two basic options: overnight or “fast food”. Since porridges are traditional breakfast dishes in Finland, overnight variant is my favorite, but both work. So, either:

And either way, it should “Just Work”.

More Porridges From Finland

Any cereal there is can probably be made into a porridge. Some more noteworthy ones that I might write about are:

… and there is even a whole another category of porridge-like, more liquidy “velli” alternatives (for which I could not find english translation).

But enough for today.

Open Source developer, most known for Jackson data processor (nee “JSON library”), author of many, many other OSS libraries for Java, from ClassMate to Woodstox