One of the things I missed the most on arrival in LA too-many-years-ago-now were oatcakes. Just plain old oatcakes.
[Backstory. Ignore and skip down a page for photo and recipe]
About 5 years ago, in a spurt of healthiness (i.e. I felt like creeaap and decided to do something about it), I caved in and consulted a nutritionist, who spotted a hole in my daily diet: the lack of regular breakfasts. This had been a perennial problem since childhood. There are only so many bowls of cereal and slices of toast I can stomach before the taste buds go into meltdown and my tongue seizes up and refuses to help me swallow any more. Growing up in Asia, there were options for the weekend: char siew bao, dao huey, dao suang, roti pratha, nasi lemak, kaya on plastic bread, dim sum; all usually eaten at our local wet market or kopi diam. These weekend breakfasts made jam on toast bearable for the other 5 days of the week; almost.
As an undergrad, I just never woke up early enough to have any breakfasts, and pretty much survived through lectures on water until that mid-morning pint. Ha! Only kidding; almost. As a post-grad, I lived on mid-morning ramen. The kind you stick in a bowl and pour hot water over. ‘Nuff said; I don’t eat that anymore; almost. And, more recently, as a post-doc, I’ve had a slightly more stable life with very slightly more regular hours (as in I get home before midnight almost 300-and-something days of the year), and hence have lost the ability to survive on one or two meals a day.
Oat porridge was what the nutritionist recommended. (Yes, the nostalgia tangent is finished with for now.) And failing porridge, at least 3 oatcakes, preferably slathered with some nut butter. Nairns and Patersons sales shot up that weekend. And we became regular customers of the cut-oats stall at Edinburgh’s twa-weekly Farmers Market. Nut butters since tried have included cashew (meh), hazelnut (not as good as Nutella), almond (ok, but not quite right) and peanut (it’s always the one worst for you that tastes the best). But I could eat oatcakes plain.
So, it was a bit of a shock to the system to find that oatcakes were not stocked in every corner shop, delicatessen and supermarket in LA. They’re endemic not just in Scotland; my parents find them with no problem in Singapore. The only places within walking distance or on a bus route that stocked Walkers oatcakes were Cost Plus World Market (one on Westwood Blvd) and Monsieur Marcel at the Third and Fairfax Farmers Market. Imagine going to a French store to buy Scottish oatcakes! At $6+ a box! Oh, the horror! Of course, now you can get blahdy Nairns oatcakes in Whole Foods, but that was nae use when I was going through cold turkey, now was it?
Anythehoo, the whole point of this blether was to announce that I’ve finally tried out a recipe for an oatcake-ish end-product that I can live with and not be constantly out of pocket to keep my stomach happy in the morning. It’s a classic back-of-packet recipe, off Arrowhead Mill’s Oat Flour. They’ve gone and called it a cheese bannock, which jars with my preconception of Selkirk bannocks, which are kind of like a giant fruit-but-unhealthy big bun thing from the Borders. Failing some misinterpretation of the recipe, I reckon the final product comes out more like cheesy oatcakes, or at least, the commercial oatcakes. Almost.
[/backstory. Sorry about the delay…]
Recipe (uses US cups)
- 1 cup quick-cooking oats
- 1 cup quick-cooking oats
- 1 cup oat flour
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp mustard powder (substituted with paprika and cayenne in this instance ‘cos P threw out the ancient handed-down-through-2-postdocs Coleman’s mustard powder)
- 1/4 cup (equivalent of 4 tbsp) softened butter
- 1 cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese (used Parmesan cheese in this instance ‘cos that’s all the fridge yielded)
- 1/2 cup warm water
- Preheat oven to 200ºC (400ºF).
- Mix the oats, flour, salt and spices well.
- Then cut in the softened butter (I cheat and microwave it on defrost for 10-20 seconds) using a fork or a pastry cutter if your kitchen drawers are well-equipped1.
- Stir in the cheese. Add 1/2 cup warm water and mix, kneading when the dough gets stiff2.
- Divide the dough in two and roll each half into circles that are 1/4 inch thick.
- Transfer to a lightly greased baking tray. Cut each circle into 4 wedges (made 8 in one which gave a more manageable farl to handle).
- Bake for 20min at 200ºC (400ºF).
- Hide from oatcake thief. If you don’t, as soon as the oatcakes are cool enough to handle, they’ll disappear off the tray, never to be seen again. I pounced and got a photo of the 3 remaining farls out of 8 (above) just in time. Just wait till I find that oatcake thief… It’ll be the spatula for him/her…
1 There’s innuendo there for anyone who wants to see it.
2 See 1.