A while back (a long while, possibly a whole year back) I decided I wanted to do more cooking and baking of English and Scottish foods. I am mostly English, a quarter Scottish, and a pinch German. We already have some German traditional recipes in our repertoire, because Bill’s mom was German. I thought it was time to bring in more of my side.
Of course, that was a year or so ago, and what did I accomplish? Not much. Well, there were the two crumpet recipes I tried out…but that was in 2008.
So – new year, new try.
I’ve already posted about our Christmas dinner of Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding, so I’m off to a good start, I think.
The oatcakes were something I’d meant to do and never got around to. I think I’d found 5 different recipes, maybe more, and my original plan was to bake them all and compare. But that didn’t happen.
Last night I was serving baked beans (which I’d been slow cooking in the oven all day) and some leftover duck and some pork rillettes a friend gave us. We also had spinach – fresh spinach from one of the winter gardens! – for a salad.
It’s January, it’s very cold now, and yes, we have fresh spinach!
Yay! I tossed the spinach with crumbled gorgonzola, dried cranberries, and sliced almonds. We dressed the salad simply with extra virgin olive oil and a fabulous pear chardonnay vinegar we received for Christmas.
Anyway, I wanted something else to balance out the meal, and to serve the rillettes on, and I had a book on British cooking out…so…
I figured I’d whip up some oatcakes.
The recipe I used comes from Jane Garmey’s Great British Cooking. I used her book for one of those crumpet recipes several years ago, and I always use her Yorkshire Pudding recipe.
There aren’t many ingredients.
Oats, water, salt, baking soda, and melted butter.
Now, I know in different parts of the world people use different “styles” of oatmeal. There are the flat kind we see most often here in the US, and there are steel cut oats, which are meatier, the grains just roughly cut but not flattened. Ms. Gormey’s recipe didn’t specify, so I felt safe in going with what I had.
The instructions said to combine the oats with the baking soda and salt, then add in the butter and enough water to make a stiff but pliable dough.
I did all that, but…dough? Not so much. More like…wet oats. I squished the mixture between my fingers, looked at the recipe again, and thought.
Then, trusting my own instincts, I dumped the squishy oats in my food processor and pulsed them enough times to make – surprise! – a stiff but pliable dough. Actually, I also stirred in about a quarter cup more oats after that, just to increase the firmness and so there would be more texture in the final product.
Satisfied with my modification, I scraped the dough out onto my (floured) countertop and rolled it out.
Note – firm or not, it’s still a very sticky dough, so you’ll need to dust the counter and rolling pin frequently with flour.
The recipe says to roll to 1/8” thick, and mine, I admit, were thicker than that. Next time I won’t be in such a hurry.
Once rolled out, I brushed the surface with a bit of water and sprinkled another two tablespoons of oats on top.
The book says to roll the dough out ON those two tablespoons…but I’d already taken one detour, so why not another?
And another: Traditionally you cut out rounds, but I just got out a pizza cutter and sliced the whole thing into about 16 pieces.
I put them all on a parchment lined sheet pan and popped the pan in a 350 degree oven.
Baking time is given as fifteen minutes or so, but because mine were thicker, they went longer, probably about 25 minutes or so. The edges and some of the oats were starting to turn brown by that point, and the rest of dinner was ready, so out they came.
Before I brought them to the table, I tried one.
Remember that scene in the movie Ratatouille when the food critic is coming and Remy the rat cooks up a simple dish of ratatouille to serve him, and everyone else in the kitchen is horrified? But the critic takes one bite, shuts his eyes, and is immediately transported back to childhood, to coming in from play and smelling that comforting smell of mother’s cooking, and taking that first soul-nourishing bite?
It was a bit like that. I wasn’t transported to my boyhood in France, since I didn’t have one of those by a longshot. But I was transported to girlhood, or to whenever I first tasted an oatcake.
This tasted right.
I served them to the family, and everyone – everyone! – liked them! I love it when that works out. We all ate pork rillettes on our Scottish oatcakes along with leftover Chinese style duck and Boston Baked Beans, plus the spinach salad from our own garden.
The world on a plate.
Here’s the recipe, in case you’re interested.
(my version, based on Jane Garmey’s recipe in Great British Cooking)
2 cups old-fashioned oats plus 1/4 cup oats plus another 2 tablespoons oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 good pinch Kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
6 tablespoons water, give or take
What to do:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment.
2. In the bowl of a food processor combine 2 cups oats, baking soda and salt, and pulse once or twice to combine. Add melted butter and water and pulse several more times until the mixture becomes a roughly textured dough.
3. Scrape this dough into a bowl and add in the 1/4 cup of oats. Stir/knead those oats into the rest of the dough. Mixture should be “stiff but pliable.”
4. Dust your work surface with flour, flatten the dough slightly, dust that with flour, too, and roll out to as close to 1/8” as you can get. The dough will be sticky, so you’ll need to re-dust with the flour often.
5. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of oats over the top, and cut into rough 2” squares. Place squares on baking sheet and place on a rack in the center of your oven.
6. Bake anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, depending on how thick the oatcakes are, until they are just starting to brown. You can serve them still warm with butter, or cooled a bit with cheese, pate, any kind of dip or spread, or hey, how about some pork rillettes?
P.S. I know, I’ve mentioned pork rillettes several times recently. We’re going to make it some time very, very soon. It’s very good stuff.