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Celtic Cookery : How much more basic can you get Oatcakes?

On a previous post I wrote about the Beltaine festival and it's widely spread traditional Scottish food the "Bannocks" which are in fact ate on every celtic festival. Let's have a further review on it's irish parallel quoted from the book "Ireland: Dublin, the Shannon, Limerick, Cork, and the Kilkenny Races" by Johann Georg Kohl , 1844 . Posted by kind permission of Conrad Bladey . All rights reserved by the author.

Take oats, mix them in water and let it dry out. Quite basic. Oatcakes are pan Celtic-wherever oats were found. In Scottish farm houses in the 19th century left over oat porridge was placed into a wooden drawer. There it dried out and was sliced and heated to crisp. Surely the oat cake is ancient and a root food.

I returned on foot to the little cabin upon the barren hillock where we had left our cars, and as a hard shower of.hail was falling over the dark plain and among the old ruins, I was compelled, for the sake of shelter, to take a closer inspection of the interior of this cabin.

This gave me an opportunity of watching the preparation of those oat-cakes which play so important u part in the national cookery both of Ireland and Scotland, and which are even found carved upon their monuments, as I have above described, These far-famed cakes are made of oats very roughly ground. The coarse flour is mixed with water, into a thick gritty paste, and spread upon a warmed iron plate. This round iron plate, which is found in the poorest Irish, cabins, is warmed by a handful of lighted straw placed underneath it, and in a few moments the cooking process is over, the paste being taken off in the shape of a hard, thin, dry biscuit. This paste is dignified by the name of cake, and is eaten daily by the poor Scotch and Irish. These cakes are not much more palatable than a mixture of flour and water, made dry and hard, would be, yet many people are passionately fond of them.

The Irish generally assure the stranger, when they show him their oat-cakes, that these are a particularly wholesome, nourishing, nndstrengtheningkindof food, which can be true only when they are compared with the watery, tasteless, and meager potatoes upon which the Irish have to subsist.

The English, generally very curious about our black bread, and to whom the word " black" seems to convey a kind of horror,* often repeat that with them people would never think of giving such a mess to any but horses ; forgetting that with us nobody would think of giving oats to any but horses, and forgetting how many millions of hungry poor there are in their empire who would be most thankful for this despised black bread, and whom it would certainly nourish much better than oat- paste which they call cake, and the nourishing qualities of which they praise so highly.-

The Ancient Oaten Past

Oats as it turns out are also healthy. Lower your fats! Here is how to connect with the ancient oaten past.

Oatcakes-oaties...

Take a quantity of rolled or other oats. (I ground my oats till it filled a standard quisinart sized food processor bowl after grinding)

Place in food processor- run on high adding oats slowly till a powdery flour is obtained. As fine as you can get it without too much work.

Add in a teaspoon of salt- to taste try and see...

If you don't' mind fat add in a few tablespoons of bacon fat. If you don't mind oil add in a few tablespoons of some form of oil- I found olive oil worked. So be healthy....

Once you grind the flour add in about a cup of whole oats. Place flour mixture in electric mixer- a strong one.

Use the flat paddle blade.

Slowly add cold water till it thickens to a stiff dough but not too hard. The paddle should still turn well enough. Switch paddle to dough hook and run on high for about two minutes.

Let dough sit for about three hours.

The dough will now be hard- don't worry break it into small bits and pout back into your mixer. Add more cold water and beat with paddle blade till you have a medium stiff mixture. The paddle turns but does not strain.

Once dough is re-constituted roll out to thickness of choice- I like about 1/8 inch. Thinner ones tend to scorch and cook too fast. Toss oat flour and whole oats on the board to flour it so that some oats get stuck to the surface of the dough- not many just the occasional one or several per oatie....

Using a glass or cutter cut out rounds of the dough.

Place the rounds on a dry cookie sheet and bake at low heat- 275-300.
Basically all you are doing is drying them out so if you want to get it done quicker simply raise the temp but keep an eye on them. They are done when between crisp and slightly chewy. Some like them totally crisp. Beware of scorching. Watch carefully even when on low heat.

Place hot oaties into a metal tin with tight lid right out of oven. This helps redistribute the heat and even out the cooking.

Serve with home made butter (take heavy whipping cream beat through whipped cream stage (add salt if you wish-to taste-) till butter separates, strain out curds compress and cool... The oaties are great with cheese. A dram of whiskey should not be refused. The texture should
not be too fine the occasional whole oat should be evident but not too many.

Now you have something that a Bronze Age Celt would recognize!
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