Do you do superfoods? Every week, it seems like there is something that we should all be eating by the bucket-load to ensure we are all in tip-top-shape. Blueberries, spinach, grapefruit, pumpkin seeds, wheatgrass, cranberries, magic hocus-pocus desert cactus oil…OK, that last one is clearly made up, but I find it quite funny that we keep looking for the silver bullet to solve all our problems. If you haven’t worked it out by now, I am a great believer in “a little bit of what you fancy and everything in moderation” coupled with “eat what’s in season as that’s when it’s best“.
Making a not-very-logical link, what is behind this little rant? Well, I just read a piece on superfoods, and it just got me a bit wound up. Being told about this wonderful thing called “oats” as if they have just been brought forth from the Amazonian jungle. Meh. I’ve known about them for years. Many a winter morning has been kick-started with porridge. But I do agree that oats are pretty darn good – gluten-free (but make sure you buy from the right supplier!), low GI (so they release their energy slowly, so you have energy throughout the day), as well as the less sexy considerations that they leave you feeling full and are rich in fibre. That, and they are very Scottish. I like that!
Two of the most well-known uses for oats are intimately linked with Scottish cuisine – porridge and oatcakes. I realise that the former is very personal (some like porridge with milk and sugar, some make it with cream and add honey and condensed milk, others make it with water and a pinch of salt), so I will instead turn to oatcakes. I absolutely love them. Indeed, they are my snack of choice at work. I usually always have a packet or two stashed at the back of my filing cabinet in case I get peckish during the day. Some might think this is an attempt to show off and look virtuous, but I do happen to find them very tasty and incredibly more-ish, so really rather good for me that they are also healthy.
But how to make oatcakes? Easy? Worth the effort? Well, it is an absolute doddle. You just boil up water and butter, add salt, and pour into some ground oats. This makes a dough, then cut out the oatcakes. Bake, and you end up with a pretty stack of savoury biscuits a lot like this:
Commercial oatcakes are fine, but one of the best things about making oatcakes yourself is that they are very crisp, and have a lovely toasted nuttiness. That, and they are crisp without being too dry.
I find their texture works very well when you pair them with cheese – and in my case, that would be slivers of very tangy, mature cheddar. Perfect after dinner, as a snack, or to nibble on in the evening when watching a film. If you’re feeling fancy, you can even make very small oatcakes, and use as the basis for canapés for…eh…those glamourous parties that we are all throwing these days.
Just be warned – one you start making them, you might find it difficult to stop and switch back to store-bought!
To make oatcakes (makes 16):
• 175g medium oats(*)
• pinch of bicarbonate of soda
• scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 15g butter
• 75ml water
Preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F). Grease two baking trays with butter or non-stick spray.
Put the oats and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl and mix.
In a saucepan, heat the salt, butter and water. Bring to the boil, then pour into the oats. Mix to a soft dough using a spoon, then with your hands. The dough should be soft and hold together, but should not be sticky.
Sprinkle more oatmeal on a worktop, lay the dough on top, and roll out the dough to 2-3mm thickness. Use a round cutter (6cm diameter) to cut out the oatcakes, and transfer them to the baking sheets. Gather the scraps in a bowl, add a teaspoon of water if needed, and mix until you have a ball of dough. Use to cut out more oatcakes, and keep going until all the dough is used up.
Bake for 30 minutes until crisp and just lightly golden at the edges. Leave to cool on the baking tray. Store in an airtight container.
(*) Make sure you use medium oats. If they are fine oats, the dough will be too dry. And don’t use rolled oats, as the texture will be all wrong, and then the guests at your glamourous party expecting perfect canapés will be shocked, and we don’t want that…
Worth making? The oatcakes you can buy are nice, but these are much nicer! They have a more “toasted” taste and additional nuttiness, which goes extremely well with cheese after dinner. Definitely worth trying!